By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho -- Animal rights activists said they pumped fuel into an Idaho fur and fireworks retailer before setting the place ablaze early Monday, and federal agents said they were taking the claim seriously.
Jerry Vlasak, a spokesman for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office in Los Angeles, said he received a message from activists shortly after the fire began at the Rocky Mountain Fireworks & Fur Co., on Monday morning.
"A hole was drilled into their storage space, and several gallons of fuel were pumped through, as well as multiple other charges being set beneath an adjoining structure," Vlasak said, citing the message. "Ignition devices were set to finish up our work, once we were safely on our way."
In addition to fireworks, the business in Caldwell, outside Boise, buys coyote and bobcat pelts and sells trapping supplies, including equipment that helps drown beavers. It also sells knives, predator calls and scents to help lure bobcats.
The fire was reported at about 5 a.m. Idaho Highway 30 and a U.S. Interstate 84 exit were closed down. There were no injuries.
The activists said they belonged to a group called "The Arson Unit" and could have ties to the Animal Liberation Front, Vlasak said. They warned that the store must close its doors permanently.
"Stay in business, and we'll be back," their message said.
Radical activist groups including the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front have been blamed for a string of 17 arsons across the West dating back more than a decade, including at ski resorts in Colorado and university laboratories in Washington state. Fourteen people have been convicted of crimes related to those fires. Such groups have been classified as domestic terror threats by the FBI.
A Utah animal rights activist in July pleaded guilty to two federal charges stemming from a pair of 2010 arson fires in the Salt Lake City area, one at the Tandy Leather Factory and another at a restaurant that served a disputed goose liver dish.
Federal agents on Monday weren't dismissing the activist group's claims of responsibility, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokeswoman Donna Sellers said. Evidence has been collected from the blaze to be analyzed at one of the agency's laboratories, she said.
"ATF does take the communique seriously," she said. "The claim of responsibility by Animal Liberationists is a lead in this investigation."
The FBI also said it's helping track down leads.
"We are assisting the ATF to see if there's a connection to domestic terrorism," said Deborah Bertram, an FBI spokeswoman in Salt Lake City.
Vlasak, whose office helps to publicize the illegal activities of activists, said he had no direct knowledge that the activists actually set the Idaho fire. But he said similar statements in past attacks on fur farms or businesses have had merit. He declined to say exactly how he received Monday's message.
"Somebody with a shop full of fireworks and fur at the same time is just kind of asking for it," Vlasak told the AP on Monday, adding that while he supports such actions, "there's a firewall between those who are actually willing to break the law to help animals, and those of us who are just serving as a press office."
The fire was contained quickly and without significant damage to fireworks or fur articles. Investigators believe the fire was "suspicious and incendiary," Caldwell fire marshal Andrew Cater said.
This image from television provided by Metro Fire Sacramento shows a horse stuck in an outdoor bathtub prior to being rescued by firefighters Wednesday Feb. 4, 2015. The horse, named Phantom, was stuck in the bathtub for about 25 minutes. Her owner saw the horse fall and called the fire department. Phantom, a Palomino/Appaloosa mix, was not injured. (AP Photo/Metro Fire Sacramento)
Elephant puts a ballot in ballot box during campaign to promote the general election in Ayutthaya province on June 21, 2011. The July 3 general election will be the first since Thailand was rocked by its deadliest political violence in decades last year, when more than 90 people died in street clashes between armed police and opposition protesters. (Pornchai Kittiwongsakul, AFP/Getty Images)
<a href="https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=726326990716438&set=a.561893947159744.145379.100000174321818&type=1&theater" target="_hplink">Elvis,</a> a Savannah cat, who weighed 24.8 pounds and measured 40 inches from tip to tail, recently died from a tumor in its sinus cavity.
Sadly, Gemini, a kitten from Rhode Island, had a short life.
The odds of seeing these three together are roughly 1 in 900 quintillion -- but a series of timely donations has allowed Connecticut's Maritime Aquarium to put together one of the most unusual lobster displays ever. While the blue lobster is a 1 in a million catch, the orange and calico are even rarer -- with the odds of finding them roughly 1 in 30 million.
LEFT: The Stargazer fish which bears an uncanny resemblance to Homer Simpson. (Caters News / Getty Images)
At two weeks old, Beyonce, a Dachsund mix born at a Northern California animal shelter, is just under four inches long and is in the running for the title of World's Smallest Dog. Here she is pictured resting on an iPhone.
'Sprinkles' the Koala following her life saving radiation treatment at the Brisbane Veterinary Specialist Centre in Brisbane, Australia, August 9, 2011. Suffering from an extremely rare case of excessive drooling, sprinkles developed a skin infection due to the excessive moisture flowing from her mouth.
Hotel magnate Leona Helmsley left $12 million for her dog Trouble when she died in 2007, but a judge reduced the bequest to $2 million.
Alexander Lacey, the big cat trainer for Ringling Brothers And Barnum & Bailey Circus, has been working with lions and tigers for 18 years, ever since he followed his dad into the business.
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Indian army personnel use a bulldozer during a rescue mission to save a wild elephant trapped in a water reservoir tank at Bengdubi army cantonment area some 25 kms from Siliguri on August 30, 2011. A wild elephant fell into the water reservoir tank as a herd crossed the area. Army personnel of 16 Field Ammunition Depot along with wildlife elephant squad of Mahananda wildlife sanctuary joined forces to save the animal.
The New Zealand SPCA taught dogs to drive as part of a campaign meant to demonstrate the intelligence or rescue dogs and boost adoption rates. Yes, these dogs are actually driving cars. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/05/dogs-driving-cars-new-zealand-spca_n_2244476.html" target="_hplink">Read the whole story here.</a>
Hania, a 4-year-old Great Dane, feeds her 3-day-old puppies in the Warsaw suburb of Nowa Iwiczna on March 17. Hania gave birth by cesarean section to 17 puppies.
Charles the Monarch, a Labradoodle, looks so much like a lion that he has sparked multiple 911 calls from concerned citizens fearing that the king of beasts was on the loose
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Ambam, a silverback gorilla at the Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent, England, shows off the stance that's turned him into a viral video sensation. Ambam doesn't do the typical ape walk -- he stands and struts like a person.
Heidi the cross-eyed opossum is pictured in her enclosure at the zoo in Leipzig, eastern Germany on June 9, 2011. Heidi moved to her new enclosure at the Gondwanaland tropical experience world, which will be inaugurated on July 1, 2011 and where Heidi will be presented to the public for the first time. Cross-eyed Heidi made the headlines in December 2010 and became an internet hit, winning more than 65,000 "friends" on social networking website Facebook.
The "Mirai", which means 'future' in Japanese, measures 17.79 inches from the ground to highest part of the car. It was created by students and teachers of The Automobile Engineering Course at Okayama Sanyo High School in Asakuchi, Japan.
This photo provided by Sean McAfee from Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012, shows a dead raccoon that McAfee saw with the road dividing line painted over it before he stopped his motorcycle to take the picture on Franklin Rd. in Johnstown, Pa. According to PennDOT traffic engineer John Ambrosini, paint crews know to avoid such animals and usually have a foreman on the job to clear any dead animals off the road before the paint-spraying truck equipment passes by. This crew didn't have a foreman that day, and the equipment was too big to turn around in traffic on the curvy, narrow road so the line could be repainted without the carcass in the way.
Lisa Marie Bach leads her pet rabbit Marie through an obstacle course in the middle-weight category at the 5th Open Rabbit Sport Tournament (5. offene Kaninchensport Turnier) on August 28, 2011 in Rommerz near Fulda, Germany. Eighty rabbits competed in light-weight, middle-weight and jumping-for-points categories at today's tournament in Rommerz that is based on Kanin Hop, or Rabbit Hopping. Rabbit Hopping is a growing trend among pet rabbit owners in Central Europe and the first European Championships are scheduled to be held later this year in Switzerland.
When a traffic jam kept surgeon Catherine Baucom from driving to work to meet a patient, she borrowed the bike of a 7-year-old and started pedaling.
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This pet duck, named 'Duckie,' won't hurt himself on the hot sands of San Diego's beaches thanks to a pair of customized booties made especially for him. Previously, the owner, who goes by the name "Miss Love," had been putting duct tape over his feet instead.
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TOKYO - JANUARY 20: A woman strokes a cat at Nekorobi cat cafe on January 20, 2009 in Tokyo, Japan. Changes to Japan's Animal Protection Law threaten the future of these furry bars by imposing a curfew on cats and dogs. (Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images)
Elephant polo players from the Spice girls team (left) and the British Airways British Army team battle it out for 5th place during the final day at the King's Cup Elephant polo tournament Sept. 11, 2011, in Hua Hin, Thailand.This year marked the 10th edition of the polo tournament with 12 international teams participating for the unusual annual charity sports event.
In an Aug. 10, 2012 photo provided by the University of Florida, Florida Museum of Natural History researchers, from left, Rebecca Reichart, Leroy Nunez, Nicholas Coutu, Claudia Grant and Kenneth Krysko examine the internal anatomy of the largest Burmese python found in Florida to date, on the University of Florida campus. The 17-foot-7-inch snake weighed 164 pounds and carried 87 eggs in its oviducts, a state record. Following scientific investigation, the snake will be mounted for exhibition at the museum for about five years, and then returned for exhibition at Everglades National Park. (AP Photo/University of Florida, Kristen Grace)
Jenny Sue Rhoades sat down on her couch to watch television when something outside caught her eye. It was a large Florida black bear walking through the back yard of her Barry Court home in southwest Seminole County.
Giant Malaysian Shield Praying Mantis pictured in Igor's studio in Munich, Germany.
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Roo the Reading Education Assistance Dog (R.E.A.D) helps a pupil at Graytown Elementary School in Graytown, Ohio.
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Two fishermen in northeastern Mexico claim they netted a dead great white shark estimated to be near 20-feet-long on April 15, 2012.
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An orangutan in Malaysia is kicking its smoking habit. Wildlife officials have removed Shirley from a state zoo after the captive primate was regularly spotted smoking cigarettes that zoo visitors had tossed into its enclosure.