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3 luxury homes burn near Seattle

Email|Print| Text size + By Elizabeth M. Gillespie
Associated Press / March 4, 2008

WOODINVILLE, Wash. - Fires gutted three multimillion-dollar model homes in a Seattle suburb yesterday, and authorities found a sign purportedly left by ecoterrorists that mocks claims that the homes were environmentally friendly.

"Built Green? Nope black!" said the spray-painted sign that bore the initials of the radical environmental group Earth Liberation Front.

Crews removed explosive devices found in the homes, said Fire Chief Rick Eastman of Snohomish County District 7. The FBI was investigating the fires as a potential domestic terrorism act, said FBI spokesman Rich Kolko in Washington, D.C.

No injuries were reported in the fires, which began before dawn. The sheriff's office estimated damage at $7 million. In addition to the three homes destroyed, two sustained smoke damage.

The houses burned as a federal jury in Tacoma was about to resume deliberations in the case of an alleged ELF activist, Briana Waters. Waters could face at least 35 years if convicted of helping to firebomb the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture in 2001.

The fires started at the "Street of Dreams," an annual real-estate promotion in the region. The cluster of unoccupied, furnished luxury model homes are a way for developers to show off the latest in high-end housing, interior design and landscaping. The homes are first opened for tours, and later sold.

The homes, none of which had been purchased, are in a development near the headwaters of Bear Creek, which is home to endangered chinook salmon. Opponents had questioned whether the luxury homes could pollute the creek and an aquifer that is a drinking water source, and whether enough was done to protect nearby wetlands.

The sign, a sheet with red scraggly letters, said, "McMansions in RCDs r not green," a reference to rural cluster developments.

One of the people involved in the project said the homes used "green" techniques such as water-pervious sidewalks, superinsulated walls and windows and products made with recycled materials.

"It's very disappointing to take a situation where we're tying to promote good building practices - Built Green practices - and that it's destroyed," said Doug Barnes, the Northwest division president of Centex Homes in Kirkland.

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