FBI: rumors of extremists setting fires untrue, harmful to first responders

Law enforcement agencies throughout Pacific Northwest ask people to stop sharing false information linking arsonists to wildfires

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The Portland branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a statement today regarding false reports of extremists 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 branch stated in a news release sent to media Friday, Sept. 11. “Conspiracy theories and misinformation take valuable resources away from local fire and police agencies working around the clock to bring these fires under control. Please help our entire community by only sharing validated information from official sources.”

Other law enforcement agencies have warned that the false rumors circulating on mostly right-wing social media sites this week are disrupting critical emergency services. 

On Thursday, Sept. 10, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in Southwest Oregon posted a “stop spreading rumors” plea on its social media channels and said the rumor that extremists were setting wildfires was taxing first responders and emergency services. 

“Remember when we said to follow official sources only? Remember when we said rumors make this already difficult incident even harder? Rumors spread just like wildfire and now our (911) dispatchers and professional staff are being overrun with requests for information and inquiries on an UNTRUE rumor that 6 Antifa members have been arrested for setting fires in DOUGLAS COUNTY, OREGON,” the sheriff’s office posted on its Facebook and Twitter sites. “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.” 

Some of the conspiracy theorists have spread information that left-wing antifascists (Antifa) started the Alameda fire in southern Oregon, but Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara told The Oregonian newspaper this week that his agency has “some leads” but none point to Antifa arsonists.