Oregon is fighting brutal wildfires — and false online rumors 'antifa' started them

Phoenix, Oregon
(Image credit: David Ryder/Getty Images)

"No, anti-fascists have not been arrested in connection with wildfires ravaging Oregon, and public officials are asking people to stop spreading the various false rumors claiming this to be the case," K. Rambo reports at The Oregonian. "Some mainstream conservative pundits and a major police trade publication, as well as conspiracy theorists aligned with QAnon, have all promoted the false narrative about the historically destructive and deadly wildfires."

About 500,000 Oregonians are under evacuation orders due to the raging wildfires, and 900,000 acres have already been singed. "We have never seen this amount of uncontained fire across our state," said Gov. Kate Brown (D). Among the towns under mandatory evacuation are Molalla, about 30 minutes southeast of Portland.

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Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter Sergio Olmos and two other journalists covering the fire in Molalla on Thursday were told to leave by a handful of armed civilians who said they were on the lookout for arsonists they had heard might target the area.

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Authorities are investigating arson as a possible cause of the Almeda Fire near Medford, which ravaged the nearby towns of Talent and Phoenix, but the Medford Police Department posted on Facebook that there's no truth to online rumors and fake photos claiming local officers had arrested antifa or right-wing Proud Boys activists in connection with the blaze. The police chief in nearby Ashland said rumors about antifa involvement in the Almeda Fire are "100 percent false information," adding, "We have some leads, and none of it points in that direction."

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Things are wild enough in Oregon that Morgan Romero, an anchor at KGW in Portland, posted a timely reminder that BLM does not mean Black Lives Matter when it comes to wildfires on public lands. Peter Weber

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.