Fact Check

Islamic State Started Fort McMurray Fire

There's no credible evidence that the Fort McMurray fire was started by or linked to ISIS.

Published May 9, 2016

ISIS claimed responsibility for the May 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire.

On 1 May 2016, a wildfire began to spread in Fort McMurray in northeastern Alberta, Canada, leading to the mass evacuation of the oil boom town's 88,000 residents.  Since then, the devastating fire, fed by bitumen and boreal forests, has consumed homes and left them little more than piles of ash.

On 8 May 2016 the web site Conservative Fans started an incredibly shaky rumor that Islamic State was responsible for the fire. After definitively stating that an ISIS member claimed responsibility for the devastating blaze in a headline designed to go viral, the outlet combined both recent and months-old comments by an unidentified person to suggest that the disaster was the result of a terrorist act:

A man by the name of Yannie Znayew claims he has started the Fort McMurray Fire.

Below you can see the comments he’s made on the website called therebel.media, which is a right wing news publishing website.

In a previous comment the man also states he knows about ISIS. And could possibly be connected to ISIS.

Truly shocking. The report comes from this website.

Yannie Znayew
commented 22 hours ago
Ha! With a few more matches, maybe me and the rest of my NDP socialist buddies can bring the tar sands industry to its knees. At least we managed to turn the Wildrose leader into a homeless bum. As far as the rest of you gravy sucking pigs are concerned, SUCK ON YOUR ASHES!

YANNIE ZNAYEW commented 5 months ago
Enjoy your little trip, Levant. There’s no way to contain the bloodlust of ISIS; I could have told you that without setting foot in France. Even with processing a single refugee, Canada is swarming with ISIS underlings ready to serve at the drop of a grenade. No one is safe , but I’m sure they’ll take additional pleasure eviscerating those reactionaries who continue to beak off on this site. The Caliphate of Canada is right around the corner and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

This could be just some fake name making up comments on the rebel to get his fame, we sure hope he gets his fame, we cannot confirm if it’s real person or not, we can only go by his comments.

Wether this is a troll post or not, this person must be investigated.

In other words, the entire premise of the article hinged on anonymous social media comments made by a single individual without any vetting for credibility.

On 9 May 2016, the Weather Channel reported that atypical seasonal atmospheric conditions (and, by extension, climate change) contributed to the fire's quick and devastating spread, but investigators had not yet identified the fire's cause:

Fort McMurray broke a daily record high temperature last Tuesday, hitting 90 degrees. The previous daily record high was 82 degrees, set on May 3, 1945. Fort McMurray's all-time record high for May was 94.6 degrees on May 26, 1986.

Each month this year has been drier than average in Fort McMurray, and the city was 1.09 inches below average on precipitation for the January through April time period. Fort McMurray has received just 0.04 inches of precipitation since April 15.

Inability to determine the cause of the fire remained one of the most prominent threads of reporting on 9 May 2016, one day after the Islamic State rumor began circulating:

Although the cause of the fire has not been determined, the inferno has become symbolic of the tension within Canada over its role in climate change.

Some Canadians see the fire as nature lashing back at those who mistreat it in the name of profit.

Others see the hard science: a wildfire formed in conditions consistent with climate change striking with academic irony, not vengeance, in a place that helps supply the world with a fossil fuel. The evacuees were really climate refugees, they say.

Still others view it as just very bad luck, a setback the oil industry will find a way to overcome.

The debate reflects a country wrestling within itself at a difficult moment - and it is testing that famous Canadian civility.

Although rumors maintained that Islamic State used forest fires as a weapon of terror, we were unable to locate any such statement made by anyone before the Fort McMurray fire began. The sheer size of the fire would be incredibly difficult to execute intentionally without demonstrated contributing factors (such as weather).

Conservative Fans caused a similar brief furore with a claim (that has since been partially retracted) that Tim Horton's was removing pork from its menu in order to appease Muslims.


Breslin, Sean.    "Why It's Called The #YMMfire And Other Things To Know About The Fort McMurray Wildfire." The Weather Channel.     9 May 2016.

Levin, Dan and Ian Austen.     "Fort McMurray, A Canadian Oil Boom Town, Is Left In Ashes." The New York Times.     8 May 2016.

Tasker, John Paul.    "'Of Course' Fort McMurray Fire Linked To Climate Change, Elizabeth May Says." CBC News.    4 May 2016.

Yardley, William.     "Wildfire At Fort McMurray Quickly Overtakes Canada's Environmental Debate." Los Angeles Times.     8 May 2016.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.

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