Watch: Hunky Firefighter Throws Water on Wildfire Conspiracy Theories, Goes Viral on TikTok

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday September 22, 2020

Firefighter Michael Clark
Firefighter Michael Clark  (Source:Screencap / Michael Clark / Tiktok)

A hunky firefighter took to TikTok to extinguish some inflammatory conspiracy theory claims about the wildfires raging on America's West Coast and threw off enough sparks in doing so to set social media ablaze.

Responding to a string of claims posted by a conspiracy theorist who claimed that the wildfires now raging in several states along the West Coast might have been set deliberately, 27-year-old firefighter Michael Clark, who lives in Hawaii, offered a point-by-point refutation of the claims, including a statement that somehow the fires "know when to stop at the [U.S.] border" and an image that suggested that a sign warning of radioactivity is at the site of one of the fires.

Responding to the former claim, Clark noted that the border with Canada seems to be the limit of some fires not because the fires magically stopped at the border but, rather, "it's a U.S.database map you're looking at," and therefore fires in Canada would not be represented.

Clark added; "Look up Canada, though!"

As for the radioactivity sign - which the conspiracy theory video claimed was among "half-burned trees about forty miles from Grand Canyon National Park" - Clark, who has worked in that same area in the past, said, "That's literally not there."

Added the firefighter: "It even looks edited. Come on, guys."

Media sources and TikTok commentators pointed out that the sign looked like it was actually located in Chernobyl, the site of a catastrophic nuclear power plant meltdown that took place in Ukraine in 1986.

Clark also pointed out that wildfires often have less sinister origins than the online claims purport, such as "lightning strikes" and "campfires" that inadvertently burn out of control.

Clark's video took off like wildfire in turn, reported Buzzfeed News, garnering more than one million views at TikTok, and approaching 7 million views at Twitter.

The viral spread of his video was so pronounced that CNN took note and featured Clark in an interview in which he was asked about his "decision to engage and debunk."

"I've just seen a lot of bizarre conspiracies about wildfires," Clark said, "...so I just wanted to try and share what information I had to help calm people down when it comes to all the crazy nonsense that is obviously nonsense."

Clark went on to say that it was "dangerous" and "just not necessary" for social media influencers to post untrue information.

BuzzFeed had noted in earlier stories that among the conspiracy theories circulating online are claims that "antifa" are deliberately starting the blazes. BuzzFeed reports that such claims not only are not factual, but they can also lead to unfortunate consequences, as when Oregon photographers who went out to document the fires were falsely claimed by "armed locals" to be "antifa arsonists."

Watch Clark's TikTok takedown of conspiracy theories below.

@wildlandmike

Original duet got taken down... ##wildfire##califire##conspiracy ? original sound - Michael

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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