‘Rumors spread like wildfires’: What we know about the fires burning across the state

Turning east, the entire area was socked in with smoke.

Social media has given an incredible advantage to Oregonians while we’ve fought wildfires over the last week. Residents have been able to mobilize and offer assistance, share resources and have quick access to reliable information from our county and state officials about evacuation zones and air quality. Social media has also become a breeding ground for rumors and misinformation, which is less helpful during this time.

Rumor: Far-left groups are intentionally starting fires

Fact: From the Oregonian “No, anti-fascists have not been arrested in connection with wildfires ravaging Oregon, and public officials are asking people to stop spreading the various false rumors claiming this to be the case.”

Rumor: Far-right groups are intentionally starting fires

Fact: From the Statesman Journal “Police also debunked a fake graphic spreading online that used the department’s logo and a photo from an unrelated 2018 arrest to falsely claim five Proud Boys had been arrested for arson.”

Rumor: I am helping people by sharing these posts that repeatedly get taken down

Fact: From the Statesman Journal, “Officials turned to Facebook on Wednesday and Thursday to squash competing narratives — some posts blamed far-left antifa activists and others said the far-right group the Proud Boys were responsible for fires that have scorched wide swaths of Oregon and Washington state.”

This means that officials are now spending their time fighting social media rumors instead of focusing on the fire that has burned down an estimated 10% of the cascades.

Rumor: The media is covering all this up

Fact: From the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, “”Remember when we said to follow official sources only. Remember when we said rumors make this already difficult incident even harder? 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. THIS IS NOT TRUE! Unfortunately, people are spreading this rumor and it is causing problems.”

From the Marion County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, “We’ve heard community concerns about looting, arson, and misinformation about evacuation statuses. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office has received no reports of arson in Marion County.”

From the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, “There have been recent posts on social media regarding arsonists lighting fires throughout the state of Oregon, and let’s face it, rumors spread, well, like wildfire. To be clear the Polk County Sheriff’s Office has received no direct information regarding any persons actively attempting to start fires in Polk County and we are not actively looking for any potential suspects for any arson charges.”

There is one fire under investigation for arson in Ashland where human remains were found, though the Ashland Police, Oregon State Police and the FBI told OPB there was no reason to believe the fires were related to any political party or protests.

While social media can be a great tool, it is causing a lot of damage. Follow the official pages local sheriff and fire departments, pay attention to reputable news sources and only share information from those places.