A person falsely called in a fire at the White House in apparent ‘swatting’ incident

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A reporter, arriving for work, walks up the driveway toward the White House on a rain-soaked morning in Washington, U.S., January 9, 2024. 

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

A person called 911 Monday morning falsely claiming that there was a fire at the White House and that someone was trapped inside.

Multiple units from the District of Columbia’s Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department responded at just after 7 a.m. ET and officials determined that it was a false alarm.  

While no law enforcement team was dispatched, “it’s in the same spirit” of “swatting” incidents that have increasingly targeted public officials in recent weeks, said Noah Gray, the communications director for D.C. fire and EMS.

In so-called swatting incidents, someone makes a false report of a crime in progress to draw police to a certain location.

It’s unclear who made the call or where it came from. A Secret Service spokesperson said any fire at the White House would have been immediately detected — and there clearly wasn’t one.  

President Joe Biden was at Camp David when the call to 911 was made. He later traveled to Philadelphia to participate in a service event at a food bank to mark the birthday of the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

In recent weeks, there has been a spate of swatting attacks against high-profile officials including special counsel Jack SmithU.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, judges on the Colorado Supreme Court and lawmakers such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.

Chutkan was targeted last week, as was New York Judge Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over Trump’s civil fraud case. On the day of closing arguments in the trial last Thursday, a call was made about a bomb threat at Engoron’s house on Long Island. A county police department spokesman said they are investigating it as a “swatting incident.”

The FBI created a national online database last year to track such swatting events.

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