'Fake news': Fire marshal dismisses reports of gas canisters in north Idaho forests

Jason Blubaum, a deputy fire marshal based in Coeur d'Alene, said despite multiple calls reporting full gas canisters in the woods, none have been found


Nicole Blanchard
The Idaho Statesman

BOISE, Idaho — Reports of possible incendiary devices left on public land in North Idaho spread quickly on social media Monday, though officials with the state fire marshal's office said the claims are unsubstantiated.

A since-deleted post on BigCountryNewsConnection.com stated that the Idaho Department of Lands had received reports of gas canisters with combustible devices attached found on forest land.

"These devices are reportedly rigged to ignite a fire if the cans are picked up," the Clarkston, Washington, news site reported.

A Facebook post with a link to the article had been shared dozens of times Monday afternoon. That post has also been deleted.

The article cited an internal memo from the Department of Lands that agency spokesperson Sharla Arledge said was not meant to be shared publicly. The memo urged anyone who found a gas canister on public land to contact Jason Blubaum, a deputy fire marshal based in Coeur d'Alene.

Blubaum called the reports, which were also shared in a popular social media post by the Spokane Tribal Police, "fake news" and "a Facebook post telephone game."

In a phone interview, he said the claims began with North Idaho News, a community Facebook page that shares crime and other local updates. The page says it is "not affiliated with any real news company."

A post on the North Idaho News page on June 20 stated, "We've had, and seen, numerous reports of someone leaving full gas cans with an ignition source in them throughout the north Panhandle on or near Forest Service roads. Tonight a lit gas can was on Government Way in Hayden." The post was shared nearly 1,000 times.

Blubaum said he has investigated one fire in the area that was determined to be an accidental ignition. He said the fire marshal's office has received numerous reports of gas canister sightings, but said calling parties refuse to provide additional information about the sightings or themselves when officials follow up.

"To us, it's fake news right now," Blubaum said. "There's been not one (canister) seen by law enforcement or by firefighters."

Big Country News Connection also reported that a Spokane bomb squad and the area's Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms office was investigating the claims. Blubaum said that is false.

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(c)2021 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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