Firefighter debunks US wildfire conspiracy theory
A firefighter has debunked a wildfire conspiracy on TikTok, as misinformation creates havoc during the challenging fire season in the US.
On social media, conspiracy theorists have been using a fire map of the US to fuel conspiracies that the fires are planned.
The map shows all the fires devastating the west coast of the US, while also showing none are in Canada to the north, and down south in Mexico.
The map has led people to speculate on social media that if the wildfires are a product of climate change - why aren’t they crossing international borders.
A firefighter from the US who goes by ‘wildlandmike’ on TikTok, or Michael, debunked the conspiracy on his platform after another TikTok user shared the theory on hers.
It appears the TikTok video wildlandmike responded to has been removed from the platform, though he did use a copy of her video in his response.
“There are a lot of fires going on right now in our country, but was it planned?” the woman says in her now-deleted video, to which Michael responds bluntly with “no”.
“Is it not weird to you guys that the fires know when to stop at the border?” the woman asks.
“Cause it’s a US database map,” Michael says. “Not going to be reporting Canada fires.”
This is essentially the same response fact-checking website Snopes had when debunking the map theory.
“For those who take such posts seriously, the simple answer is that fires don’t stop at national borders, but many maps produced by U.S. agencies only display US-derived data and thus don’t reflect activity occurring across the border,” Snopes stated.
Myth #1: the wildfires stop at the border.
Truth: By definition, maps based on US federal data don't show fires outside US borders; but it doesn't mean they don't exist. Here's a US map (left) and 🇨🇦 map (right). We do a bit better with recognizing we're part of a continent 😁 pic.twitter.com/c0tarKb3bv
— Prof. Katharine Hayhoe (@KHayhoe) September 14, 2020
Natural Resources Canada has a map which updates fire hotspots and the most recent map available shows there are fires burning north of the US border.
Michael also responded to another theory the woman shared in her video. She starts showing footage of half-burnt trees in an area which is about 64km away from the Grand Canyon National Park.
“If this was just a regular fire, why were there biohazard signs all over the place?” the woman questioned.
“That’s literally not there - I’ve worked there, it even looks edited,” Michael said.
The TikTok video blew up online, gaining over half a million views in a single day. Many people were grateful the firefighter took the time to debunk the conspiracy theory.
“Thank you for speaking facts,” one person commented on the video.
“Conspiracy theorists have been going wild lately and it’s actually dangerous.”
The video also found it’s way on to Twitter, where it was also praised.
“Firefighters literally fight fire. Also firefighters fighting conspiracy theories on TikTok,” Rex Chapman remarked on Twitter.
“Not all heroes wear capes...”
Wildfire smoke travelled to Europe
According to CNN, 87 active fires have burned through ten states on the west coast and more than 4.6 million acres.
Earlier this week, California’s governor Gavin Newsom discussed climate change and its relation to the wildfires, in a respectful one-on-one sit down.
Just last week, Newsom declared he had “no patience for climate-change deniers”, saying people must “disabuse ourselves of all the BS that’s being spewed by a very small group of people”.
On Monday, Newsom told Trump they “can agree to disagree” on climate change and asked him to “please respect ... the difference of opinion out here.”
“We come from a perspective, humbly, where we submit the science is in and observed evidence is self-evident that climate change is real,” Newsom told Trump during a meeting near Sacramento.
The smoke from the wildfires has caused haze in the east of the US and the scientists say the smoke has travelled as far as Europe.
Data collected by the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service found smoke from the fires had traveled 8,000 kilometers through the atmosphere to Britain and other parts of northern Europe.
The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, which operates some of the Copernicus satellite monitoring systems, said the fires in California, Oregon and Washington state have emitted an estimated 30.3 million metric tonnes of carbon.
With Associated Press
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