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Noah Y. Kim
By Noah Y. Kim September 16, 2020

Twitter video does not show a drone starting West Coast wildfires

If Your Time is short

• A spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection analyzed the video and determined that it depicts a helicopter engaging in a standard firefighting practice called a controlled burn. ​

A video shared on Twitter, Facebook and TikTok shows aerial footage of an aircraft-mounted flamethrower starting fires in a forest, and the posts imply that the wildfires ravaging the West Coast are being set intentionally.

"Here is the fire drone video that Twitter, Google, and YouTube didn't want us to see," reads the caption. 

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Lynne Tolmachoff, a spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, analyzed the video for us and concluded that it depicts a flamethrower mounted on a helicopter, not a drone. She also determined that the helicopter was engaging in a standard firefighting tactic called a controlled burn. 

We also traced the video back through social media to find out where it originated. The video was first posted on Aug. 21, where it appeared with this caption: "This is a tactic used to fight a brush fire, as well as other uses...#controlledburn." 

Controlled burns lower the risk of high-intensity fires by burning through dry fuel collected on forest floors. Firefighting agencies have used both drones and helicopters for this purpose before. 

The tweet is similar to other posts falsely attributing the West Coast wildfires to arson by antifa. Police departments, sheriff's offices and forestry departments have all issued statements saying that these claims are inaccurate. In reality, heatwaves, dry soil and drought caused by climate change have made environments on the West Coast more flammable, and sparks and heavy winds have led to fast-spreading blazes throughout the region. 

Our ruling

A video shared on Twitter shows aerial footage of an aircraft-mounted flamethrower setting fires in a forest. The caption reads, "Here is the fire drone video that Twitter, Google, and YouTube didn't want us to see."

A spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection analyzed the video and determined that it depicts a helicopter engaging in a standard firefighting practice called a controlled burn. 

We rate this post False. 

 

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Twitter video does not show a drone starting West Coast wildfires

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