The FBI and other law enforcement officials issued statements on Friday to dispute rumors that wildfires in Oregon had been intentionally started by extremists.
“FBI Portland and local law enforcement agencies have been receiving reports that extremists are responsible for setting wildfires in Oregon. With our state and local partners, the FBI has investigated several such reports and found them to be untrue,” the FBI Portland Division said in a statement.
“Conspiracy theories and misinformation take valuable resources away [from] local fire and police agencies working around the clock to bring these fires under control,” the statement continued. “Please help our entire community by only sharing validated information from official sources.”
Devastating wildfires are currently raging across the West Coast, including several massive fires in Oregon that have burned hundreds of thousands of acres. In a press conference on Friday, The Director of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management Andrew Phelps said officials are preparing for “a mass fatality incident” based on the number of buildings and homes that have been destroyed.
Demonstrations against system racism and police brutality have taken place in Portland since late May, sometimes resulting in violent clashes between activists and authorities.
As the fires spread throughout the Pacific Northwest, rumors started to circulate online that they had been intentionally started by either far-left or far-right extremists, according to a report from the Associated Press. Law enforcement officials have since put out numerous statements disproving these claims.
“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 six Antifa members have been arrested for setting fires in Douglas County, Oregon,” the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook on Friday. “THIS IS NOT TRUE! Unfortunately, people are spreading this rumor and it is causing problems. Do your part, STOP. SPREADING. RUMORS! Follow official sources of information such as local emergency response websites and pages, government websites and pages and local reputable news outlets.”
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office in Jackson County, Ore., posted a similar message on Friday.
“We are inundated with questions about things that are FAKE stories. One example is a story circulating that varies about what group is involved as to setting fires and arrests being made. THIS IS NOT TRUE!” the Sheriff’s Office wrote. “When official information about the investigation is available it will be on reputable government, fire and law enforcement internet sites and social media pages.”
As of Friday, around 95,000 people in Oregon are currently under evacuation orders, according to an analysis by The Oregonian.