Online rumours muddying real information on B.C. wildfires | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Online rumours muddying real information on B.C. wildfires

This is what's left after the Ashcroft Reserve fire ripped through the Boston Flats community estates mobile home park on July 11, 2017.
July 12, 2017 - 2:30 PM

When it comes to evacuation orders, locations of wildfires and road closures, many are leaning heavily on speculations and rumours on social media rather than getting facts from officials — and it's causing additional headaches for everyone.

There are approximately 14,000 people evacuated because of aggressive wildfires in the province and many people are sharing unfounded rumours or asking questions in local community Facebook pages.

Cache Creek Mayor John Ranta says the rumour mill is causing stress to many.

"People are suffering anxiety from rumours they've heard on the street," he says. "Generally rumours aren't based on a shred of fact. It's someone's flight of fancy that can persist if someone else hears it."

During information sessions over the last week, concerned residents have come to Ranta with rumours and concerns about destruction in Cache Creek.

"We only lost one house, out buildings, and hangars at the airport. The village of in Cache Creek has not been damaged by the wildfire," Ranta says.

While he admits it's unreasonable to ask people to change their daily routines of sharing information on social media, he says it's vital to stop spreading rumours and go through official channels for information.

"The repeating of rumours gives them life and reality," Ranta says.

Chatter about looting in the evacuated areas is appearing on social media and causing some concern. RCMP in the area confirm those rumours are false.

"There is no looting going on in the Ashcroft or Cache Creek area. We have members at checkpoints coming in and out of the community," Sgt. Kat Thain says. "We want to put these rumours to rest."

It should be obvious, but Thain says police do not monitor Facebook or other social media sites. Officers need a report to begin any type of investigation.

"We need to hear it from the person who has seen something or is aware of it. We do not scan social media sites, we need people to come forward," Thain says.

Earlier this week, false information that Kamloops was at capacity for evacuees was shared. That was simply not true

Last weekend B.C. Wildfire sent crews to Mt. Lolo near Kamloops for a reported wildfire. None of the callers reporting the fire saw it first-hand and after patrols and investigation, there was no smoke or fire to be found, according to fire information officer Tracey Wynnyk. Officials suspect the rumours started on social media. 

For a list of contact information for officials with the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, B.C. Wildfire Service, Emergency Information B.C., and Drive B.C. post updated information online, go here.

For the lastest coverage of the wildfires in the region, go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kim Anderson or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

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