The California wildfires have caused the deaths of dozens of people, many of whose bodies are effectively unrecoverable. The toll to pets, homes, businesses and property is devastating as well. On top of everything else, they have not yet been contained… there could be more damage to come.
Of course, the conspiracy theorists have started expressing their beliefs about what may have “really” happened. Note: while there are strong suspicions that the Camp fire in particular was started by a transformer issue from a California electric utility, there is yet to be any official confirmation of the fire’s origins. Because of this, it’s too early to say that most theories can be “debunked”. Almost anything is possible, however improbable.
That is why people will hear the conspiracy theorists’ mantra of “I’m only asking questions.” The assumption is that staging their positions in the form of theory will shield them from negative blowback. They’re not actually providing cover for the people responsible for terrible events, they’re merely asking questions.
In the early stages, before confirmation, however… they’re right. They’re only asking questions. Until those questions can be determined to be completely invalid, possibilities must be entertained . If they are shown to be invalid, though, they must be firmly and aggressively dismissed.
The conspiracy side of Twitter has been abuzz with the suggestion that space lasers may have started the fire. To back this supposition, pictures of prior “space laser strikes” have been provided.
Thankfully, the people at the Weekly Standard have stepped up. They traced one of the images to a SpaceX rocket launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base; another to a controlled “flare off” from an Ohio refinery and a light pillar (light reflecting off ice crystals in the atmosphere, happening near bright illumination in clear, cold weather… the flare off happened in January; and another to a lens reflection due to a dirty lens. The fourth in the images above was not covered by the Standard, but bears the earmarks of another lens reflection. Here’s the video explaining the optical phenomenon, which was used in the WS piece:
Another argument is that only a directed energy weapon could have caused some houses to burn while leaving others untouched. This is an example, posted by a prominent “alt-right” spokesman. His Twitter feed has thousands of followers and he is a minor celebrity among Trump fans.
I’ll make things VERY easy for Mr. Tokes and his followers. There’s a fairly simple explanation. It’s called air.
Wind currents are caused by temperature variation, and small items – most notably things like hot ashes – can be carried along these winds. In the event of large fires, the currents generated can be intense. These strong winds will deposit some embers onto objects in the path of those winds.
If they land on combustible items, and those items are heated to the point of catching fire, fires will start. Those small flames will consume other inflammable material, generating more heat and growing the fire.
This is the principle behind lighting a wad of paper aflame and placing it under kindling, which is then placed underneath firewood. Trying to light the wood directly rarely results in a campfire. Starting with the paper and kindling first usually will, even if the firewood is still green.
With a giant fire nearby and wind gusts travelling at speeds normally achievable only with motor vehicles, embers land in random spots. Where they fall onto moist grass, they extinguish. Where they fall onto metal siding, or brick, they extinguish. Where they fall onto already-hot shingles they may catch fire… and if one shingle goes up, the entire roof, and then the entire structure, will soon follow.
Air. Not space lasers. Although the alt-right is inclined to disagree.