The FBI’s Portland field office was forced to debunk rampant conspiracy theories Friday that left-wing extremists had set the wildfires currently engulfing hundreds of thousands of acres in Oregon.
“FBI Portland and local law enforcement agencies have been receiving reports that extremists are responsible for setting wildfires in Oregon,” the office wrote on Twitter. “With our state and local partners, the FBI has investigated several such reports and found them to be untrue.”
“Conspiracy theories and misinformation take valuable resources away local fire and police agencies working around the clock to bring these fires under control,” it added. “Please help our entire community by only sharing validated information from official sources.”
Other local law enforcement apparatuses have also had to quash rumors about arsonists this week as thousands were evacuated under an eerie orange sky. The false theories seem largely to be originating from and spreading on social media platforms.
On Thursday, the sheriff’s office of Douglas County, located in the southwest part of the state, posted on Facebook to debunk a rumor that members of Antifa, an umbrella name for anti-fascist groups that has become a boogeyman to many on the right, had been arrested for setting fires.
“Rumors spread just like wildfire and now our 9-1-1 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 post read. “THIS IS NOT TRUE! Unfortunately, people are spreading this rumor and it is causing problems.”
About two hours south, police in Medford had to disown a Facebook post fashioned to look like it came from their department.
“This is a made up graphic and story,” the post said. “We did not arrest this person for arson, nor anyone affiliated with Antifa or ‘Proud Boys’ as we’ve heard throughout the day. Also, no confirmed gatherings of Antifa which has also been reported.”
It’s not the first time baseless rumors of invading extremists — a specter actively promulgated by Trump — have overwhelmed police departments. In towns across the country, inhabitants, terrified and incensed by social media posts, have flooded their law enforcement centers with warnings about impending doom. In a New Jersey suburb, Antifa extremists were supposedly coming for a shopping center. In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, they were coming by the “busload.” Rural Payette County, Idaho was convinced it was next on the list to be invaded.
In Forks, Washington, the Antifa mania grew to such a fever pitch that heavily-armed locals harassed a visiting family, ultimately trapping them at a campsite with felled trees. The bewildered family was rescued by golden-hearted teenagers with chainsaws.
The Trump administration eagerly fans the flames of Antifa hysteria, with the President frequently using the shadowy (and mostly fabricated) figures to redirect attention from the protests over police brutality and systemic racism that have intermittently broken out across the country since late May.