Terrible Conspiracy Theories Are Being Spread About The California Wildfires


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer


A view of the Woolsey Fire in Malibu, California. John Dvorak/Shutterstock

As the California wildfires continue to rage across the state, claiming 63 lives, people are already starting to spout conspiracy theories about how they may have formed.

These conspiracy theories range from the bizarre to the ridiculous. The Sacramento Bee has done a good job of rounding up some of the weirder ones and, like them, we won’t link to any of the original theories to prevent adding any veracity to them.


One theory is that lasers, perhaps operated by aliens, terrorists, or the US government, were shot from planes or spaceships to cause the fires. Another is that the wildfires were the result of, who else, the Illuminati, again by lasers. And a third is that drug cartels were somehow involved.

“Most of their evidence [regarding the laser theory], which is frequently delivered in rambling, overlong YouTube videos, is based around how some stuff on the ground appears burned and other stuff... burned... less?” Cracked noted.

Raw Story then also picked up on a number of tweets that were spreading conspiracy theories. One noted “irregularities”, such as single homes being burned down, while someone else said the wildfires lined up with the plans for California’s High-Speed Rail System.

Snopes has a pretty good debunking of that latter claim. “First and probably most significant is the fact that the map purporting to show the extent of the wildfires is actually a map of 'red flag' warnings put out by Cal Fire on 11 November 2018,” they said.


“A red flag warning ‘is issued for weather events which may result in extreme fire behavior that will occur within 24 hours’ and does not, as implied by the meme, represent areas that have burned.”

They also noted that the red flag warning zone doesn’t actually line up at all with the high-speed rail system. No, there’s no Big Rail conspiracy here.

As mentioned, the wildfires have already claimed dozens of lives. These theories, apart from being rather insane, are also pretty damn insensitive to the people that have died so far.

There are all sorts of scientific reasons as to why people believe in conspiracy theories. One is that people misunderstand probabilities and want to find an explanation for unlikely events. Another is that people just want to be unique.


The actual cause of the fires is not yet known. As ever, though, climate change is likely playing a part in making conditions for them more favorable.


  • tag
  • Conspiracy theory,

  • wildfire,

  • California