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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke July 20, 2023

Claims connecting arsonists to dozens of recent wildfires in Canada don’t stand up under scrutiny

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  • The stories cited as evidence of recent arson-caused wildfires include structure fires that were quickly extinguished and old cases from previous years. Only two of the examples pertained to suspected arson cases this year.

A recent Infowars video that’s been shared on Facebook makes the case that wildfires burning across Canada over the summer were started by arsonists. 

"DOZENS of wildfires in Canada determined to be arson by RCMP investigators," reads a description of the June 8 video.  

A now-deleted Facebook post sharing the video on July 16 was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

In the Infowars video from the show "American Journal," host Harrison H. Smith highlights several news stories about arson in Canada. 

The first, a CBC News story from June, reported that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, said it was investigating three fire scenes as arson cases. But a closer look at the article reveals that none of these fires were wildfires. One was a structure fire extinguished by the local fire department, another was a green bin that had been set on fire, and the third was a pile of recycling bags that had been set on fire on the side of the road.

The second story, from the Edmonton Journal in June, reported on what it described as a "Grande Prairie arson," but this, too, wasn’t a wildfire case. There was a fire in a back alley of a home in a neighborhood, according to the news article, but officers extinguished the flames before someone was injured.

The third story, also from the Edmonton Journal in May, reported on the April arrest of a man who had been charged with 10 counts of arson "after a string of wildfires and blazes in and around Cold Lake," according to the RCMP. But this doesn’t do much to bolster the Facebook post’s case, either, because most of the alleged arson attacks the man was accused of happened in 2022. The only incident to occur in 2023 involved a post office and church, not a wildfire.

Hill then refers to a story in the Nelson Daily, a British Columbia news outlet, about a woman in the region who was charged with multiple counts of arson in connection with wildfires in 2022, and a May Global News story about a woman arrested on grounds she "intentionally" set two fires in woods near Sooke, British Columbia.

"This is a trend now," Hill says. "Why in two months do you have 16 fires all that have been caused by arson and then you have all of Quebec erupt in flames in what seems to be a coordinated arson attack in the entire province?" 

But of all those examples, only two were arson cases connected to wildfires this year.

He then continues with more headlines, including a May Global News story about "charges laid in series of intentionally set Alberta wildfires, residential arsons." What he doesn’t say: This is another story about the same Cold Lake arson cases he previously referred to in the Edmonton Journal article.  

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He then cites the Sooke, British Columbia, case again and says, "So we have like 20 examples in the last 30 days of wildfires being set intentionally in Canada. It’s easy to find this information."

Indeed, it is easy to find these news stories, but they don’t support the suggestion that the RCMP determined dozens of recent wildfires were set by arsonists.

Marie-Eve Breton, a spokesperson for the RCMP told PolitiFact that "police don’t make determinations on what causes a fire" and that "each province is individually responsible for the evacuation and investigation of any reported arsons."  

Breton also suggested we contact "each individual police of jurisdiction," be it a local RCMP agency or a provincial or municipal agency.

Because the video’s host highlighted Quebec, we also contacted the local RCMP agency there. Cpl. Tasha Adams told us it doesn’t investigate arson in that province. 

The agency is cited in the news stories referred to in the video, but the strong suggestion that this supports the claim that the recent spate of wildfires across Canada was caused by arson is wrong. 


That’s not to say that human behavior hasn’t contributed to wildfires. Canadian investigative magazine The Narwhal reported June 28 that in Alberta, the majority of wildfires each year are caused by humans "including from off-road vehicles, campfires, fireworks, ammunition, industrial activity, agriculture, power lines and some arson." In British Columbia, meanwhile, the majority of wildfires are caused by lightning, which is responsible for half of all wildfires in Canada in a typical year. 

Analyzing data from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, The Narwhal found that from the beginning of May through June 19, 34% of fires were started by lightning and 40% by humans, while the causes of an additional 26% of fires were still undetermined. 

"As wildfires continue to burn across the country, arson has been a source of debate, driven by misinformation," the magazine said. "But the facts don’t support the claims. The RCMP in Alberta said on June 14 that it is investigating 12 suspicious fires, but stresses that doesn’t mean those are arson." 

Cpl. Troy Savinkoff, a spokesperson with the RCMP in Alberta, told us that suspected human-caused fires are considered suspicious fires. An example of a suspicious fire that wasn’t an arson case? Someone stole fireworks and launched them from a moving vehicle, starting a fire, Savinkoff said. But the person wasn’t trying to cause the fire, and the case wasn’t considered an arson.

We rate the claim that the RCMP concluded that dozens of recent wildfires were caused by arson in 2023 False. 


Our Sources

Facebook post, July 16, 2023

Infowars video, June 8, 2023

The Narwhal, What causes wildfires? Lightning, people, climate change … and obsessively putting them out, June 27, 2023

CBC News, RCMP believe 3 fires in Pictou County early Friday were deliberately set, June 2, 2023

Edmonton Journal, Alberta RCMP search for suspect in Grande Prairie arson, June 3, 2023

Edmonton Journal, Cold Lake area man facing 10 arson charges after string of wildfires, blazes: RCMP, May 4, 2023

The Nelson Daily, Woman arrested and charged with multiple counts of arson, May 16, 2022

Global News, Woman arrested for ‘intentionally’ setting fires in woods near Sooke, B.C.: police, May 31, 2023

Global News, Charges laid in series of intentionally set Alberta wildfires, residential arsons, May 4, 2023

Email interview with Marie-Eve Breton, media relations officer, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, July 17, 2023

Email interview with Cpl. Tasha Adams, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, July 18, 2023

Interview with Cpl. Troy Savinkoff, public information officer, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, July 19, 2023


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Claims connecting arsonists to dozens of recent wildfires in Canada don’t stand up under scrutiny

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