2017 video from the U.S. shared as forest being 'set on fire' in Himachal Pradesh

By: Umme Kulsum
May 9 2024

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2017 video from the U.S. shared as forest being 'set on fire' in Himachal Pradesh

Screenshot of post claiming that a forests in Himachal Pradesh is being set on fire. (Source: X/Modified by Logically Facts)


The Verdict False

The video shows a controlled burn operation at Arizona's Hualapai Peak in March 2017. It is unrelated to Himachal Pradesh, India.

Claim ID b6a976f1

What is the claim?

A video of a helicopter flying over a green hilly area igniting fire below is being shared to claim that the footage is from the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh. A user on X (formerly Twitter) shared the video with a caption in Hindi that roughly translates to: "The forests of Himachal are being set on fire! Till now, only foreigners were doing such stupidity. Now started doing it in India too Or else he will go around declaring himself the world guru (sic)." Though the post has now been deleted, it was viewed over 6,000 times at the time of writing this story. An archived version of the post can be viewed here.

The claim has emerged amid the ongoing news coverage and criticism surrounding regular forest fires in the North Indian state. Over the years, Himachal has witnessed numerous wildfires, resulting in extensive destruction of forest cover and biodiversity. In January, a particularly devastating incident occurred in Manali, where the forests of Vashisht and Shanaag were engulfed in flames. 

However, this video in question is old and not from Himachal Pradesh.

What did we find?

Through a reverse image search using the keyframes from the viral video, Logically Facts found the exact clip shared on YouTube (archived here) on October 21, 2017. The title in Portuguese translated to English read: "Helicopter using "fire drip" to fight forest fires."

Comparison showing a screenshot from the viral clip and the YouTube video. (Source: X/YouTube)

We also found a similar video shot from a different angle shared by the Bureau of Land Management - Arizona on Facebook  (archived here) on March 22, 2017. The caption read, "The Colorado River District,in partnership with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, is conducting a prescribed fire on the Hualapai Mountains southeast of Kingman this week called the Beecher Prescribed Fire. Here is a video from yesterday's ignition operation. Fire managers are using a helitorch to assist with ignitions on the approximately 1,500-acre area they are treating. Ignitions have been completed on approximately 1,000 acres and continued today on up to the remaining 500 acres (sic)." 

Logically Facts contacted Dolores Garcia, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Arizona state Office public affairs specialist, for more information on the viral clip. She said, "This was a video of heli-torch operations on a Prescribed Fire in 2017 on one of our units in NW Arizona.  We have multiple tools that assist us to strategically reduce vegetation, during wildfires or in a prescribed fire situation."

All of this evidence confirms that the video is from Arizona, not Himachal Pradesh.

What is prescribed fire?

Prescribed fire is a land management practice where fire is deliberately used on vegetation. These fires are carefully planned by a team of fire experts under specified weather conditions and executed to restore natural fire patterns in ecosystems that are adapted to fire or to reduce the accumulation of dry vegetation in areas at risk of wildfires, according to the National Forest Foundation.

Garcia also expanded on the use of prescribed fire and the necessary tools for its implementation, highlighting their significance in vegetation management.  She said some tools used to reduce vegetation include mechanical treatments such as chainsaws and masticators and strategic implementation of fire. The heli-torch is one of many tools that allows firefighters and fire managers to use fire for vegetation management/reduction. Technically, the heli-torch is the larger version of the drip torch that is more commonly carried/used by firefighters to introduce fire on the ground.  

What caused the forest fires in Himachal Pradesh?

According to the Himachal Pradesh Forest Department, forest fires in Himachal Pradesh are mainly due to a lack of precipitation. The state receives precipitation only during monsoons and winters, and it faces seven to eight dry months annually, rendering its forests highly susceptible to fires. Experts suggest that human negligence and the practice of monoculture only make matters worse.

It is to be noted that there has been a rise in the number of forest fires reported in Himachal Pradesh's neighboring state, Uttarakhand, in the past few days. According to a report in Hindustan Times, on May 5 and 6, almost 1,000 forest fires were detected by satellites, which has been pegged as the highest number of fire incidents this season.

The verdict

This video is not related to Himachal Pradesh or any region in India. The clip is from the United States, and the helicopter does not show causing a forest fire but rather flies a mission that involves removing parts of the vegetation, thus containing forest fires, called prescribed fire. Therefore, we have marked this claim as false.

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