British Columbia is currently dealing with an unexpected wildfire that has left netizens coming up with their own conspiracy theories. Many believe that the destruction was politically motivated. Meanwhile, it has been announced that the wildfire is the second largest in provincial history, and nearly 1000 international firefighters from New Zealand, South Africa, the United States, and Canada are attempting to defeat the fires.
Darryn Wellstead, a sociology professor and social media researcher at Northern Lights College in Fort St. John, B.C., revealed in an interview that social media users have created multiple theories about how the wildfire came into being. She explained that some netizens believe that the wildfires were started by Antifa or anti-oil activists.
Speaking about the current wildfire at hand, Wellstead said that some netizens believe that fires were planned out:
“Most of the theories were that the fires were politically motivated and not just a consequence of accidents or bad decision making. [The conspiracy theories] are symptomatic of something bigger that’s happening.”
Meanwhile, a satellite image of the wildfires has gone viral across social media. It shows how the fires ignited at the “exact same time,” leading some to believe that the fires were coordinated.
Darryl Wellstead explains why netizens create such conspiracy theories following wildfire
Wellstead explained that several citizens have become fearful due to the increase in political differences, which has led to them believing in conspiracy theories. She explained that they give people a “sense of control” in situations where they feel like they do not have any.
She also explained that due to the uncertainty of the situation, netizens have taken to creating their own assumptions and living in their echo chambers where opposing opinions are not taken into account. Wellstead said:
“In our situation we had a little bit of an information vacuum, where people were concerned really on an hourly basis what was happening with the fire, [especially] when your home or your family might be at risk. [When] that information is not provided, people will go ahead and fill in those gaps.”
This is not the first time netizens have assumed that a natural occurrence was man-made. Some conspiracy theorists believe that climate change is a hoax that was created to destroy the oil and gas industry.
Following the blaze, Environment Canada has revealed that Ottawa is suffering from “very high risk” air quality. Southern Ontario is also expected to experience poor air quality throughout the weekend.
British Columbia now waits for a change in weather to tackle the heavy smoke and fire that has been stretching over 2,400 sq km in size. Speaking about the fires, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said:
“This is a scary time.”
As Canada deals with wildfire, the air around New York City is facing unprecedented levels of pollutants, according to The New York Times. The heavy smoke and dark shadows have prompted residents to stay indoors.
Reports claim that the Canada fires have also played a role in the poor air quality levels in the United States. The US National Weather Service has issued alerts on the air quality across the Atlantic seaboard, which includes states ranging from Vermont to South Carolina and as far as Ohio and Kansas.