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HomeFact CheckHawaii Wildfires Caused By Laser Strikes? No, Viral Images Are Of Unrelated...

Hawaii Wildfires Caused By Laser Strikes? No, Viral Images Are Of Unrelated Events

Authors

Kushel HM is a mechanical engineer-turned-journalist, who loves all things football, tennis and films. He was with the news desk at the Hindustan Times, Mumbai, before joining Newschecker.

Claim
Laser attacks led to the deadly wildfires in Hawaii in August 2023.

Fact
Viral images are of unrelated events from 2018. One image is most likely of a cold-weather phenomenon after a meteor strike in Michigan, while the other is of a SpaceX rocket launch in the same year.

Several social media users are circulating two images, purportedly showing a beam of light striking land, citing them as evidence of a “laser attack” on Maui, Hawaii, causing the recent deadly wildfires.

Conspiracy theorists have been pushing their “directed energy weapons” theory, suggesting that the fires were deliberately lit with plane-mounted laser weapons. Wildfire conspiracy theories have been around since 2018. For example: California’s deadliest wildfires in 2018 were claimed by an increasing number of people online to be caused by “directed energy weapons”, that is aliens or US government-directed lasers bent on destroying homes, property, and lives.

The Hawaii Wildfires

Wildfires in Maui, the second-largest island in Hawaii, have reportedly killed at least 55 people, a toll expected to rise, and unleashed destruction on the historic resort town of Lahaina — a residential and tourist destination that dates back to the 1700s. The fast-moving inferno, which started on Tuesday, is said to be fuelled by strong winds and low humidity. Hurricane Dora, a category 4 storm about 500 miles south of Hawaii, contributed to the damaging winds over Maui.

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Fact Check

Image 1

Viral images are of unrelated events from 2018. One image is most likely of a cold-weather phenomenon after a meteor strike in Michigan, while the other is of a SpaceX rocket launch in the same year.

Newschecker ran a reverse image search, which led us to this Spanish news report, dated January 17, 2018, stating that the United States Geological Survey (USGS) confirmed the fall of a meteorite on the outskirts of Detroit (Michigan) that caused a small tremor of intensity 2 on the Richter scale.

Viral images are of unrelated events from 2018. One image is most likely of a cold-weather phenomenon after a meteor strike in Michigan, while the other is of a SpaceX rocket launch in the same year.

“Before the USGS confirmed the fall of the meteorite, dozens of citizens shared recordings of the phenomenon on social networks in which a flash of light followed by an apparent explosion can be seen,” read the report.

We then learnt that the viral image has been in circulation since January 17, 2018, and that it has nothing to do with lasers or wildfires. According to a Snopes  fact-check, the photograph is most likely of a controlled burn that occurred at an Ohio oil refinery in January 2018 and the apparent “beam of light” is a cold-weather visual phenomenon known as a “light pillar” — narrow rods that appear to extend from the sky to the ground.  

“The light pillars just happened to appear around the same time that a meteor was spotted streaking across the sky in Michigan, creating the perfect conditions for conspiracy theorists to spread rumours about otherworldly weaponry,” read the Snopes report, dated January 18, 2018. Articles on these light pillars seen around Ohio and Detroit in January 2018 can be read here and here.

Image 2

Viral images are of unrelated events from 2018. One image is most likely of a cold-weather phenomenon after a meteor strike in Michigan, while the other is of a SpaceX rocket launch in the same year.

Newschecker ran a reverse image search, which led us to this Arstechina report, dated May 23, 2018, headlined, “In absence of fog, the images from a SpaceX launch Tuesday are stunning”. A similar report can be seen here, where the photo is captioned, “A Falcon 9 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base.”

Viral images are of unrelated events from 2018. One image is most likely of a cold-weather phenomenon after a meteor strike in Michigan, while the other is of a SpaceX rocket launch in the same year.

A relevant keyword search led us to this Digital Trends report, dated May 23, 2018, stating that SpaceX logged yet another successful mission, blasting seven satellites into orbit aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. A similar report can be seen here, confirming the viral image is of a SpaceX rocket launch.

Viral images are of unrelated events from 2018. One image is most likely of a cold-weather phenomenon after a meteor strike in Michigan, while the other is of a SpaceX rocket launch in the same year.

Also Read: Muslim Man Being Tortured By Haryana Cops? No, Unrelated Video Shared With Communal Twist

Conclusion

Viral images claimed to be evidence of laser attacks on Hawaii, which caused the deadly wildfires, were found to be of unrelated events from 2018.

Result: False

Sources
Snopes report, January 18, 2018
Arstechnica report, May 23, 2018


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Authors

Kushel HM is a mechanical engineer-turned-journalist, who loves all things football, tennis and films. He was with the news desk at the Hindustan Times, Mumbai, before joining Newschecker.

Kushel HM
Kushel HM
Kushel HM is a mechanical engineer-turned-journalist, who loves all things football, tennis and films. He was with the news desk at the Hindustan Times, Mumbai, before joining Newschecker.

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