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A Canadian conspiracy theorist who peddled falsehoods about his government starting Canada’s wildfires last summer to trick people into believing climate change is real has been found guilty of starting 14 fires.

Brian Paré, 38, pleaded guilty earlier this week to 13 counts of arson and one count of arson with disregard for human life at a courthouse in central Quebec, according to CBC. When he was eventually apprehended he told police he started the fires to check if the forest was dry or not.

The pyromaniac’s arsonist spree began in May and lasted through September in a year which saw Canada suffer its worst wildfire season on record. Smoke from the Canadian wildfires choked much of North America with dangerous smoke for months and cities like New York were often smothered in a yellow haze. International fire crews helped Canada extinguish the flames.

A man jogs through the Liberty State Park while the smoke from Canada wildfires covers the Manhattan borough

Smoke from the Canadian wildfires choked much of North America with dangerous smoke for months and cities like New York were often smothered in a yellow haze. International fire crews helped Canada extinguish the flames. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

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Two of the fires ignited by Paré forced the evacuation of around 500 homes in Chapais, Que., a small community located around 265 miles northwest of Quebec City. Residents of the town weren’t able to return home until June 3, prosecutor Marie-Philippe Charron told the court, according to CBC.

One of those fires, at Lake Cavan, burned more than 2,000 acres of forest and was the largest of the fires Paré admitted lighting.

It was the first in a series of five fires set by Paré between May 31 and June 1, about three days after the Quebec government banned open fires in or around forests due to dry weather condition, the outlet reported. 

Canada wildfires

Flames from the Donnie Creek wildfire burn in British Columbia, Canada, on July 2, 2023. A Canadian man who touted conspiracy theories about his government starting wildfires last summer to trick people into believing climate change has been found guilty of starting 14 fires. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

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Charron said that five fires in such a short period of time raised suspicion. The prosecutor said that officials determined that the fires had no possible natural cause and had been criminally set. 

While Paré was setting the fires, he was also claiming on social media that the flames had been started by the Canadian government in a ruse to make believe in climate change. 

In fact, the general director of Canada’s fire services in November said that 99.9% of the more than 700 wildfires last year were sparked by lightning strikes with dry conditions exacerbating the fames. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Biden blamed the fires on climate change at the time. 

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to question during a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, October 6, 2021. REUTERS/Patrick Doyle

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blamed the fires on climate change (REUTERS/Patrick Doyle)

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Police were able to catch Paré after they installed a tracking device on his car. He had raised suspicion back on June 2 when he turned up at a fire and “demonstrated a certain interest in fires” when police interviewed him, Charron said, according to CBC. On Sept. 1 and Sept. 5 the tracking device showed he was at locations where other fires were started and when questioned on Sept. 7 he admitted to starting nine fires. 

“At this point, the accused admitted he was the one who started the fires and, as his main motivation, claimed he was doing tests to find out whether the forest was really dry or not,” Charron said.

Paré is still detained and a pre-sentencing report has been ordered that will consider his mental state and the risk he poses to public safety. 

More than 100 wildfires are still listed as burning in British Columbia thanks to a combination of a busy wildfire season, extreme drought and generally warmer and drier conditions through December, according to the Vancouver Sun, citing local fire officials.  

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