Wildfires in California and other western states are getting worse every year, but is climate change all to blame? We explain.
Infosnips The claim: Anti-fascist activists started catastrophic fires in Oregon.
Multiple posts on Facebook have alleged that this week’s widespread wildfires in Oregon were actually set by antifascist activists known as antifa.
“7 antifa members have been arrested for starting fires…” one user posted on Wednesday, along with a screenshot of a direct message that alleged that a logger “discovered a group of antifa throwing molotov cocktails on his property.”
Another user posted a response to “those of you asking for ‘proof’ that is it antifa or that these are INTENTIONAL fires,” which included a video of smoking equipment with signs attached to it that read “Black Lives Matter” and “Spend Your Privilege.”
“They are boxing us in.. literally fires EVERYWHERE!!!” the user added.
Neither user responded to requests from USA TODAY for comment or substantiation.
Officials in Oregon have decried rumors about arson, antifa
As rumors have spread, state and federal officials have spoken out against theories about the origin of the catastrophic blazes.
Joy Krawczyk, a spokeswoman with the Oregon Department of Forestry, told The New York Times that the department has not seen “any indications of a mass politically influenced arson campaign.”
Beth Anne Steele, a spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, also told The Oregonian that there is “no indication that the fires are the result of coordinated criminal activity.”
And the FBI Portland tweeted on Friday it has investigated reports that extremists are responsible for setting wildfires and found the reports to be “untrue.”
An arson investigation is underway in Oregon’s Almeda Glendower Fire, but Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara told The Oregonian that it wasn’t antifa.
“One thing I can say is that the rumor it was set by antifa is 100% false information,” O’Meara wrote in an email. “We have some leads, and none of it points in that direction.”
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office posted a plea on its Facebook that community members stop spreading rumors about antifa.
“Rumors spread just like wildfire and now our 9-1-1 dispatchers and professional staff are being overrun with requests for information and inquiries on an UNTRUE rumor that 6 Antifa members have been arrested for setting fires in DOUGLAS COUNTY, OREGON,” its post read. “THIS IS NOT TRUE!”
Similarly, the Medford Police Department in Medford, Oregon, posted a note to debunk a rumor that the department had arrested political extremists for arson.
“This is a made up graphic and story. We did not arrest this person for arson, nor anyone affiliated with Antifa or ‘Proud Boys’ as we’ve heard throughout the day,” its post said. “Also, no confirmed gatherings of Antifa which has also been reported.”
Infosnips Some fires caused by downed power lines, weather conditions
Officials have confirmed the causes of some of the largest blazes in Oregon — and it’s not antifa.
Wildfires terrorizing the Santiam Canyon, for example, were started by falling trees that knocked down power lines. Small fires grew and spread due to historically high winds, according to the Salem Statesman Journal.
Fires in Lincoln County were confirmed to have been caused by human activity on Thursday, but that’s still not indicative of arson. Human causes include campfires and burn piles, and discarded burning debris, per The Oregonian.
High temperatures, strong winds, dry forests and lightning storms have all contributed to what has become one of the most dangerous fire seasons in history on the West Coast, per The Wall Street Journal.
All it takes is a spark — like the blaze in California that was set by fireworks at a gender reveal party, as CNN reported.
A case of arson that occurred in nearby Washington has fueled the rumors about antifa involvement, according to NBC News.
Far-right websites like Protester Privilege and The Gateway Pundit have claimed in headlines that the suspect, Jeff Acord, whom authorities say set fire to a highway median, is an “Antifa radical.” They cite his arrest at a protest for Black Lives Matter in 2014. There is no clear connection between the groups.
USA TODAY has reached out to both sites for comment.
The fire Acord set was quickly extinguished, and isn’t linked to any of the other wildfires burning on the West Coast.
There’s also no mention of antifa in tweets from the state trooper and local police department that announced his arrest.
Infosnips Our rating: False
Based on our research, claims that wildfires in Oregon were set by antifascist activists are FALSE. Multiple police departments have condemned and debunked rumors about arson, and the spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Forestry said there is no indication of “a mass politically-influenced arson campaign.”
Infosnips Our fact-check sources:
- The New York Times, Sept. 10, Wildfires Live Updates: Vast Destruction Across Three States
- The Oregonian, Sept. 10, Rumors about ‘antifa’ wildfires in Oregon are false, law enforcement says
- FBI Portland, Sept. 11, Tweet
- The Oregonian, Sept. 10, Arson investigation underway where human remains found at Almeda fire in Ashland, chief says
- Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Sept. 10, Post
- Medford Police Department, Sept. 9, Post
- The Washington Post, June 15, What is antifa?
- BBC, June 17, George Floyd protests: Who are Boogaloo Bois, antifa and Proud Boys?
- Salem Statesman Journal, Sept. 9, Oregon Wildfires: Santiam Canyon wildfires started by downed power lines, priority on ‘saving lives’
- The Oregonian, Sept. 10, Fires burning near Lincoln City scorch 2,400 acres, believed caused by human activity
- CNN, Sept. 7, A pyrotechnic device at a gender reveal party sparked one of the California wildfires, burning over 8,600 acres
- NBC News, Sept. 11, As wildfires rage, false antifa rumors spur pleas from police
- Komo News, Nov. 26 2014, Police: Man charged after bringing weapons to Seattle protests
- Puyallup Police, Sept. 9, Tweet
- The Gateway Pundit, Sept. 10, “Antifa Radical Arrested for Arson in Washington State — Was Caught on Highway Live-Streaming on Facebook Before Arrest (Video)“
- Protester Privilege, Sept. 10, “Antifa Arsonist Arrested Near Tacoma, WA After Live-streaming Himself“
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