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Critical Infrastructure News

2-Alarm Fire Destroys Garage at USDA Campus in Beltsville

A two-alarm fire at the U.S. Department of Agriculture facility in Beltsville, Maryland, burned a garage to the ground Tuesday.  Several vehicles were also destroyed.  Crews were called Tuesday morning for a reported shed fire. They arrived to find heavy fire along the side of and inside a large garage. Vehicles inside the building were on fire, said a Prince George's County fire spokesman.  Prince George's County fire/EMS department spokesman Mark Brady said it took firefighters about 45 minutes Tuesday to knock down most of the flames at a one-story row of workshops inside the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Maryland.  Most of the fire was out by about 11 a.m.  Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesman David Cheplak says arson and explosives agents, who often investigate large fires and fires at federal facilities, are on the scene.  He said in an email late Tuesday that there does not appear to be evidence that a criminal act occurred. Cheplak emphasized that the investigation is still open.

Source: NBC4

Agriculture closes offices in 5 states after threats

The Agriculture Department said Tuesday it had closed offices in five states after receiving anonymous threats that it considered serious.  USDA spokesman Matthew Herrick said in a statement that the department had received "several anonymous messages" late Monday that raised concerns about the safety of USDA personnel and facilities. He said six offices were closed Tuesday morning until further notice.  Herrick said the department is working with the FBI and federal and local law enforcement to determine whether the threats are credible.

In an email to employees, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said USDA is closing the offices "due to the serious nature of these threats." He did not characterize the threats or say how they were received, but asked employees to be aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious activity.  White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said the Department of Homeland Security is working with USDA "to ensure the safety of their offices and the personnel that work there."

The closed facilities are in Fort Collins, Colorado; Hamden, Connecticut; Beltsville, Maryland; Raleigh, North Carolina; Kearneysville, West Virginia and Leetown, West Virginia.  They include offices for eight USDA agencies, including the Forest Service and the Food Safety and Inspection Service. Among the sites affected was USDA's sprawling agricultural research center and library in Beltsville, where employees were informed of the threat Tuesday morning and sent home.

In his memo to employees, Vilsack said employees could telework or take authorized leave.  The temporary closures may affect some tourists. In Colorado, the Forest Service's Canyon Lakes Ranger District tweeted that their information center is closed.

Source: Baltimore Sun

Pentagon simulation crash exercise scheduled for Thursday

The Pentagon Force Protection Agency will conduct a simulated helicopter crash and mass casualty exercise at the Pentagon Mall Terrace and Heliport Thursday.  The mass casualty exercise will allow all emergency response partners to validate their response capabilities and involves a helicopter crash and subsequent fire at the Pentagon.  The exercise involves first responders from the Arlington County Fire & Rescue, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Fire Station 161 and Crash Team, DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic and the American Red Cross.

The exercise scenario and may be visible from the Virginia State Highway Routes 27 and 110.  Commuters are warned they may see police and emergency response activity in and around the Pentagon Mall Terrace and Heliport during the exercise.  The exercise will be held on the the north side of the Pentagon from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will not disrupt normal employee or visitor access to the Pentagon.

The Pentagon Force Protection Agency is a civilian agency within the Department of Defense charged with protecting and safeguarding the occupants, visitors and infrastructure of the Pentagon, Navy Annex and other Pentagon facilities.

Source: WTOP

Authorities search for man who posted threats to schools

 Authorities in Florida are looking for a man they say posted a series of messages on Twitter, threatening to shoot students and put pipe bombs inside some schools in the Orlando area.  The Orlando Sentinel reports officials with the FBI, Orlando police and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office don’t believe the threats are credible.  But they’re looking for a 23-year-old transient who’s lived in Florida, California, Virginia and Maryland.  Officials say the threats started July 24 and targeted four high schools and a middle school.  The posts also encouraged people to “shoot up” the schools. Orange County Schools sent messages to parents letting them know about the messages.  FBI Special Agent Amy Pittman says “every investigative lead is being aggressively followed” to locate the suspect.

Source: WTOP

Noise alert for Wallops Navy practice

Virginia - Expect some extra noise around Wallops Flight Facility over the next several days — and nights.  The Navy is conducting flight training from Aug. 1-10 at the Accomack County facility.  The so-called field carrier landing practice is scheduled to be performed both day and night.  The training will involve Navy E-2C/D and C-2A turboprop aircraft, according to a Wallops press release. It is aimed at preparing personnel for landing on aircraft carriers.  About 150 personnel assigned to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 120, based at Naval Station Norfolk Chambers Field, are participating.  They include Navy pilots as well as Navy and civilian maintenance personnel.  All of these personnel are staying in off-base, local area accommodations.

Source: DelMarVa Now