The Claim and Our Verdict
The claim: A photo circulating online claims to show the firefighting front line of Chongqing’s brush fires.
Fact-checking: This photo has been digitally altered. The original photo was taken in Lijiang in southwestern China’s Yunnan province in 2019. A Douyin users has released a statement admitting to be the author of this altered photo and showing how the photo was edited.
Our verdict: This photo does not show the firefighting front line of Chongqing’s recent brush fires. In fact, it is an altered photo showing wildfire in Yunnan, prior to the recent brush fires in Chongqing.
A photo shared Aug. 25, 2022, on Facebook, claims to show the frontline rescue of recent brush fires in Chongqing. The caption reads, “With the brush fires raging in Chongqing, a group of young off-road motorcyclists acts as the last rescue transport team and continuously delivers rescue materials to the front line.”
According to Xinhuanet, forest fires have occurred in many places in Chongqing since August 2022, and more than 20,000 people have participated in the firefighting work. As of the morning of Aug. 26, all open fires in Chongqing have been extinguished.
As of the publication of this report, the Facebook post had been shared seven times, and it had received 11 comments as well as 167 likes or reactions. Similar posts had been circulating on Twitter as well.
A reverse image search found a news article published in May 2019 by the Chinese state-run media website Huanqiu.com, titled “Arson suspect of Yulong forest fire in Yunnan arrested.” The photo shared in the Huanqiu.com article is similar to the Facebook photo. However, a motorcycle driver can be found in the Facebook photo, while a tree appears in the corresponding position in the Huanqiu.com photo. According to Huanqiu.com, brush fires broke out May 17, 2019, in Fengke Town, Yulong Naxi Autonomous County, Lijiang, in southwestern China’s Yunnan province. 222 people made every effort to extinguish the fire. All open fires were finally put out May 18.
The same photo was published by the official Weibo account of the Yunnan Forest Fire Brigade in May 2019. The Weibo post stated that brush fires had broken out in Fengke Town, Yulong County, Yunnan Province.
Further keyword searches found a clarification statement issued Aug. 24, 2022 by a Douyin user. In the statement, the Douyin user apologized to netizens and admitted that the viral photo had been originally edited by her. She also stated that the photo did not show the brush fires in Chongqing and that the design of the altered photo was only to express her feeling of tribute. She also posted both the original and altered photos. After comparison, it is confirmed that the original photo posted by the Douyin user is identical to the one in the Huanqiu.com article, while the altered photo posted by the Douyin user corresponds to the one posted on Facebook.
This photo does not show the firefighting front line of Chongqing’s recent brush fires. In fact, it is an altered photo showing wildfire in Yunnan, prior to the recent brush fires in Chongqing.
- Facebook, post, Aug. 25, 2022.
- Xinhuanet, “Scene being cleared after brush fires in Chongqing extinguished,” Aug. 26, 2022.
- Weibo, post, May 20, 2019.
- Twitter, tweet, Aug. 26, 2022.
- Huanqiu.com, “Arson suspect of Yulong forest fire in Yunnan arrested,” May 22, 2019.
- Douyin, post, Aug. 24, 2022.