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Wildfire

False Rumors Of Arson Spread Around Jackson County

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Liam Moriarty
A screenshot of a Medford Police Facebook post

When the Almeda Drive Fire ignited in Ashland on Tuesday and began spreading north, unfounded rumors of what sparked the flames quickly made their way around the internet.

Misinformation has been swirling around social media in the Rogue Valley regarding recent catastrophic fires.

Several Facebook posts claim that the Medford Police Department has arrested seven Antifa members responsible for starting fires in the region. Another post has the Medford police department’s name and logo, with a caption saying they have arrested five members of the alt-right group the Proud Boys as arson suspects.

Mike Budreau is a lieutenant at the Medford Police Department and has been fielding concerned calls and questions regarding the claims.

“When we have to stop and constantly address these false rumors it just takes our time away from that," said Budreau. "But we have to, because we don’t want our community believing these things and being in any more upset or stressed out than they already are.”

He says they are especially busy right now investigating criminal cases and trying to protect public safety among the fires.

“It’s basically pouring gasoline onto a fire — no pun intended — to our community down here," he said. "So it seems like whoever is doing this is taking advantage of a vulnerable population that’s seeking desperate information by providing their version of what they want the narrative to be.”

Budreau said that while they don’t like to monitor social media posts too closely, the emotionally charged nature of the situation, as well as the mimicking of official law enforcement posts, warranted a response.

Medford Police Department and the Jackson County Sheriff's Department have publicly denied these claims and have not made any arson arrests related to these fires.