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In this aerial image, wildfires burn in Shelburne County, Nova Scotia, on Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (AP) In this aerial image, wildfires burn in Shelburne County, Nova Scotia, on Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (AP)

In this aerial image, wildfires burn in Shelburne County, Nova Scotia, on Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (AP)

Sara Swann
By Sara Swann June 8, 2023

No evidence wildfires in Canada were set intentionally

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  • There have been no reports the wildfires in Canada were set intentionally.

  • Canada’s government said the wildfires this year have been especially widespread and severe because of continued drought and warmer temperatures.

  • Climate change also is causing wildfires and other natural disasters to become more frequent and extreme.

As wildfires continue to rage throughout parts of Canada affecting air quality in parts of the U.S., some social media users claim the fires were set intentionally.

A June 6 TikTok shared a June 2 video from the Weather Network, a Canadian TV channel, which reported that a state of emergency had been declared in Quebec as a result of the wildfires. Text across the TikTok read, "When you learn these fires were planned."

TikTok identified the video as part of its efforts to counter inauthentic, misleading or false content. (Read more about PolitiFact’s partnership with TikTok.)

Canada experiences wildfires every year, but experts say this year’s wildfire season has been one of the worst in history — a situation authorities attributed to weather conditions.

The fires have been especially severe and widespread because of "ongoing drought and long-range forecasts for warm temperatures," Canada’s government reported. The government expects the "higher-than-normal fire activity" will continue throughout the wildfire season, which is typically from April until September.

There were 426 active fires — 243 out of control — in Canada as of June 6, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre. Most of the active fires were in Quebec province.

The wildfires have burned more than 3.7 million hectares, or more than 9.1 million acres, of land in Canada this year, the center reported. That’s equal to almost 7 million American football fields.

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Smoke from these wildfires has moved south covering large swaths of the United States and causing poor air quality in major cities, including New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Wildfires usually start because of lightning strikes or human activity, such as a person dropping a burning cigarette.

Parts of Canada have been experiencing higher than average temperatures. Hotter weather brings more lightning strikes and drier atmospheres lead to less moisture in trees and plants, causing fires to spread more quickly.

Global climate change also has caused weather to become more extreme. As a result, wildfires in Canada and other parts of the world have become more frequent, severe and intense.

Some social media users have been spreading a conspiracy theory that wildfires had been intentionally set in Alberta to disrupt the province’s election. But that is unproved; Agence France-Presse reported that officials have found no evidence suggesting widespread arson.

In May, police in Sooke, British Columbia, arrested a woman in connection to suspicious fires, one of which was a small brush fire; the other "fully involved" a tree. Another woman was arrested in March in connection with fires set in Port Alberni,  British Columbia.

But there have been no reports that these incidents led to the hundreds of wildfires raging across Canada at a record pace, or that these fires were set intentionally.

We rate this claim False.

Our Sources

TikTok (archived version), June 6, 2023

TikTok, June 2, 2023

Government of Canada, "The Government of Canada Provides Update on Wildfire Seasonal Outlook and Outlines Response," June 5, 2023

Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, "Interactive Map," June 6, 2023

Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, "National Fire Situation Report," June 6, 2023

British Columbia, "What causes wildfires," accessed June 7, 2023

NASA, "A drier future sets the stage for more wildfires," July 9, 2019

The Washington Post, "What to know about the Canadian wildfires affecting parts of the U.S.," June 7, 2023

Agence France-Presse Fact Check, "Alberta wildfire surge sparks unproven arson claims," May 18, 2023

Chek News, "Woman arrested in connection to suspicious fires: Sooke RCMP," May 31, 2023

Sooke News Mirror, "Woman arrested after series of suspicious grass fires started on Vancouver Island," March 30, 2023

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No evidence wildfires in Canada were set intentionally

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