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- Video circulating on social media is being framed as evidence the recent wildfires in Canada were planned. That’s wrong. Footage of so-called planned ignitions show a strategy to combat wildfires, not start them.
As northeasterners in the United States face another smoke-filled day because of wildfires burning across the border in Canada, misinformation continues to spread online about the natural disaster’s origins.
"It was a set up," reads text across a video showing flames scorching forest land as a helicopter flies overhead dropping fire on the treeline.
"Canada’s wild fire footage, could it have been planned?" the caption on one Instagram post that shared the TikTok video said. "Video footage shows helicopters dropping flames and embers on trees in Canada."
The June 7 post includes hashtags like #setup, #newyork and #airpollution.
This post 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.)
The British Columbia Wildfire Service’s logo is visible in the post, and we found the footage in a YouTube video the agency shared June 4. The title: "Donnie Creek Wildfire — planned ignitions update June 4, 2023."
The video’s caption says the "two successful planned ignitions took place on June 1 and 2, securing 55 kilometers of line along the south flank of the fire."
The caption says, "Planned ignitions are an essential wildfire management tool to remove forest fuels and bring the fire’s edge to established control lines with less intensity than free burning fire, thus reducing the ability for further spread."
A narrator in the video talks about the "helitorch," which he describes as "a 45-gallon drum of jellied gasoline that the pilot has suspended under the helicopter."
The narrator says, "As he flies along, as we give him the command to, he pulls the trigger on the remote device which shoots the jellied gasoline, which is ignited out the end of the nozzle and into the treetops."
Jean Strong, a BC Wildfire Service spokesperson, confirmed that the footage shows a planned ignition, which she said is used to contain "very large wildfires."
"When the decision is made to conduct such a burn operation, the wildfire is usually beyond the initial attack stage," Strong said. "The goal is to remove the majority of available fuel ahead of the wildfire so there’s less fuel available for the wildfire to burn. This strategy slows down and helps limit the spread of the wildfire."
Also, Strong said, recent wildfires in British Columbia "were not planned."
As of June 8, the Donnie Creek wildfire was approximately 310,805 hectares, or more than 768,000 acres. Its suspected cause, according to the BC Wildfire Service, was a lightning strike. This wildfire is west of the fires burning in Canada’s Quebec province, where much of the smoke in the northeast of the United States can be traced, according to The New York Times. In that province alone, nearly 150 fires were burning midweek.
We rate claims that this footage proves wildfires in Canada were planned False.
Instagram post, June 7, 2023
TikTok post, June 5, 2023
YouTube, Donnie Creek Wildfire - planned ignitions update June 4, 2023, June 4, 2023
BC Wildfire Service, Donnie Creek, visited June 8, 2023
The New York Times, Noxious air in the U.S. pushes south and west, June 8, 2023
Email interview with Jean Strong, information officer, BC Wildfire Service, June 8, 2023
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