California sent fire danger text alert to 12 million people

California sent fire danger text alert to 12 million people

LOS ANGELES — Millions of Southern Californians already dealing with a siege of destructive wildfires received an unprecedented text alert warning them to be ready for extreme fire potential early Thursday, but conditions turned out to be less dire than predicted even though strong Santa Ana winds were blowing.

Kelly Huston, deputy director of the state Office of Emergency Services, said it was the broadest alert the office has ever sent and reached an estimated 12 million people in seven counties.

“I would rather be criticized for potentially annoying someone, than for not delivering a critical alert under these dangerous fire conditions,” Huston said.

The office erred on the side of caution because conditions were similar to those that led to 44 deaths in wind-whipped fires that broke out across Northern California on Oct. 8, he said.

Many residents of the Northern California fire zones have complained they did not receive alerts, and their representatives announced Thursday they will introduce legislation to establish statewide emergency alert protocols and require all counties to adopt up-to-date systems with operators trained to implement evacuations.

The alert sent Wednesday night to Southern California only advised of dangerous conditions, not evacuations.

It said: “Strong winds overnight creating extreme fire danger. Stay alert. Listen to authorities.”

The alert came hours after Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told reporters that a colour-coded danger scale had reached purple, which was never used previously, and winds could reach 80 mph.

Purple is part of the “Santa Ana Wildfire Threat Index ” produced by the U.S. Forest Service, the National Interagency Coordination Center’s Predictive Services and other collaborators to categorize Santa Ana winds according to fire potential.

The threat index uses a predictive model that incorporates moisture levels of dead and live vegetation and weather models, including wind speeds and atmospheric moisture, to produce a six-day forecast for potentially large fires. The result is then compared to climate data and the historical record of fires to create the rating.

On Thursday, the National Weather Service said there was a “burst” of winds Wednesday night that subsided and that it appeared models may have “over forecast” Thursday’s wind event.

Nonetheless, parts of Southern California still were buffeted by strong winds, including 88 mph (142 kph) in San Diego County and 85 mph (137 kph) in Ventura County, where the largest fire is burning.

California

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The interchange at Highway 2 and McKenzie Road at the south end of Gasoline Alley is being redesigned with two roundabouts. Construction is expected to begin this month and finish in October. (Graphic from Red Deer County)
Roudabouts coming to McKenzie Road overpass at Gasoline Alley

Project expected to improve traffic flow at busy intersections

A federal strategy to preserve threatened trout could conflict with provincial coal leases in the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies. (Contributed photo by Jeff Lund).
Federal regulations could save Alberta’s bull trout by shutting down mining plans, says biologist

Ottawa’s new strategy identifies a 30-metre protected area along rivers and streams

(Contributed image)
Wolf Creek Public Schools will not participate in curriculum pilot

Central Alberta school jurisdiction joins others across Alberta

Canada's Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes, fom left, celebrate after winning women's gold medal match against Brazil's team at the Beach Volley Worldtour Major Series, in Vienna, Austria on August 4, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ronald Zak
Canada’s world champion beach volleyball duo finally getting games before Tokyo

Canada’s world champion beach volleyball duo finally getting games before Tokyo

Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch (24) gets fouled by Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Bogdanovic, Capela lead Hawks past Raptors 107-103

Bogdanovic, Capela lead Hawks past Raptors 107-103

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu throws to a New York Yankees batter during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Ryu sharp into 7th, Semien homers as Blue Jays top Yanks 7-3

Ryu sharp into 7th, Semien homers as Blue Jays top Yanks 7-3

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau (13) scores the game winning goal on Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender David Rittich (33) in overtime NHL action in Toronto on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Gaudreau scores in overtime, Flames beat Maple Leafs 3-2

Gaudreau scores in overtime, Flames beat Maple Leafs 3-2

Jim Bullock, Vicki Pappas and Randy Waples off to Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame

Jim Bullock, Vicki Pappas and Randy Waples off to Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame

Canada's Evelyne Viens celebrates scoring against Wales during the women's international friendly soccer match at Leckwith Stadium, Wales, Friday April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nick Potts/PA via AP
Canada capitalizes on England mistakes to win women’s soccer friendly 2-0

Canada capitalizes on England mistakes to win women’s soccer friendly 2-0

After weekend hiccup at men’s worlds, Grand Slams move into curling bubble

After weekend hiccup at men’s worlds, Grand Slams move into curling bubble

Erickson Gallardo of Canada's Toronto FC and his teammates celebrate after Andres Mosquera of Mexico's Leon scored an own goal during their Concacaf Champions League soccer match in Leon, Mexico, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRES/AP/Mario Armas
Toronto FC gets vaccine boost but injury list still an issue ahead of Leon rematch

Toronto FC gets vaccine boost but injury list still an issue ahead of Leon rematch

Most Read