*So easy to make a little kid can do it. In fact, they do, all the time. Mommy's Bic plus Daddy's La-Z-boy equals no more house and BBQ baby. Oldest story in the world. Ever see a toddler make an effective pipe bomb? (Pipe bombs are the worst weapons in the world anyway. The only thing they're good for is quick amputation of the pipe bomber's hands and eyes—Nature's way of saying, "thy genes ye shall not pass on!")
*Unless you're one of those toddlers, you won't get killed by your own arson. Not that hard to walk away from a brushfire—when it's just getting started. Later, not so easy. But that's the whole point. In other words, very safe for the arsonist.
*No detonator needed. In fact, no tricky electronics whatsoever. So easy a caveman could do it, and did.
*No traceable chemicals. What are they gonna say if they ever get lucky enough to identify you, "Hey, the suspect has handled gasoline! And a lighter!" Until they start taking smokers off jury lists, and they might in this fucked-up state, no jury on the planet's going to convict you for handling a 98 cent Bic lighter. And as for gasoline, imagine the interrogation: "We found gas all over your hands, firebug!" "Uh, I used the self-serve and it spilled." Long awkward silence, ending with you walking out into the daylight, smiling in quiet pride at that big black smoke column over Malibu.
*Unlike bombs, a fire can't fail to go off. It doesn't take an Edison to make sure your fire is working. You could send the dumbest guy on the planet to carry out the mission—and according to Tommy Franks, the dumbest guy on the planet is ex-Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith—and he'd get it right.
"Mr. Undersecretary, do you have ignition?"
"Mr. Undersecretary, is the brush now burning?"
Feith: "Oh yeah, hee hee... Pretty fire!"
"Excellent, Mr. Undersecretary, now please vacate the area."
"Get in the car and go, ya moron!"
It would in fact be Feith's first successful mission. That's fire for ya: a real morale-builder, a real resume-packer.*And I've saved the best for last: fire is what the pros call a "force multiplier." Meaning it goes on and on an on, long after that Energizer bunny is fricasee'd in the ashes, a gourmet treat for any coyote willing to get its paws burnt.
Unlike bombs, the size of the fire you set has no relation to its effect. You take a Bic and apply it to some dry weeds upwind of Malibu at the end of the dry season, and that two-inch flame ends up forcing some producer to reschedule his next pool party and restock his cocaine stash. (I bet that "toxic smoke" they warned about in LA was more than toxic, bet it was a real freebase reek.)
A fire that takes one second to start can burn a city five miles away, down to the ground. That makes fire way more effective than most nukes. And a lot easier to make.
Irregular warfare's Agent Orange
The real question is why it isn't used more often. Of course we have fire weapons like napalm, flamethrowers, and incendiary bombs, but all of them require hi-tech conventional weapons. And for the foreseeable future, conventional warfare ain't shit. Until otherwise notified, we're talking irregular warfare, the only kind that matters.
The Japanese tried sending fire balloons over the Western US in WW II, but that was sheer stupidity. The vector for fire is humans. You use people to start fires. And people, like I keep telling you over and over, are the only essential weapon for an irregular force. In this case, that means one clean-cut Al Qaeda sympathizer who's learned to smile all the time, keep a job, avoid talking about politics and drive a neutral-looking car (my pick would be a Honda, nothing more boring or invisible than an Accord). There he is standing on a hill inland of Malibu. He's been mowing his lawn, watching the NBA, blending in like a fanatic, and now that the Santa Ana's blowing toward the prime real estate on the ocean, he's ready. He takes a casual glance up and down the road, tosses a little sterno stove into the brush, drives on. Three days later Tori Spelling collects ten million for her beachfront mansion.