One of many conspiracy theories taking over the internet revolves around the fires blazing along the west coast of the United States. Firefighters, law enforcement, and experts are racing to put a halt to the spread of these wildfire myths.
In one theory, people use a fire map of the United States (seen above) to suggest that the fires are planned. The fire map, as its name suggests, shows the fires currently burning across the US. The map does not show the fires outside the US border, in Canada or Mexico.
Using the map, these conspiracy theorists say that if climate change really is factor, then fires should be happening outside the US — ignoring that the map doesn’t show those areas an there are fires happening around the globe. Others are sharing videos called “fire drone videos” to back up their claims. They say these are videos that platforms like YouTube and Twitter don’t want anyone to see.
Firefighter Battles Myths on TikTok
A firefighter, Michael (@wildlandmike), directly responded to the video above. He said that the video used was actually a prescribed burn, where firefighters use devices like driptorches and helicopters.
A driptorch allows a steady stream of flaming fuel to be directed to the ground as needed. Just like Michael explained, they’re often used in controlled burns.
Another TikTok user shared the theory that all fires are strangely happening within the US borders, but has since deleted their TikTok. Michael also responded to the girl’s conspiracy theory to debunk it.
As she questions if all the fires are planned and how “weird” it is that fires stopped at the border, he says “It’s a US database map. Not going to be reporting Canada fires.”
Wildfire Myths Debunked
Katharine Hayhoe, director at Texas Tech Climate Center, addressed multiple popular wildfire myths circulating the internet. She addressed conspiracy theorists who doubted climate change’s role in wildfires and those who claimed fires were manmade.
Hayhoe acknowledged that some were manmade, placing fault on arsonists or incidents like the gender reveal fiasco in California. She also pointed out that most wildfires are burning much greater areas due to hotter and drier conditions and vegetation, which is a result of climate change.
Myth #3: wildfire can be EITHER arson or climate change but not both.— Prof. Katharine Hayhoe (@KHayhoe) September 14, 2020
Truth: most wildfires in the lower 48 states are human-ignited but they are burning *much greater area* due to hotter, drier conditions + vegetation as a result of climate change. pic.twitter.com/gWW8LDUj4H
In Oregon, law enforcement agencies are fighting conspiracy theories that Antifa extremists are setting fires and destroying power lines, CNN reports.
Last week, the FBI released a statement, saying that investigations found the theories to be “untrue.”
The statement read, “Conspiracy theories and misinformation take valuable resources away [from] local fire and police agencies working around the clock to bring these fires under control. Please help our entire community by only sharing validated information from official sources.”
As of Thursday, fires in Washington, California, and Oregon have destroyed more than 4.7 million acres and killed at least 34 people, according to CNN.