Speed Reads

alert!

12 million Southern California residents received a fire danger text alert

With fires burning across several counties in Southern California, the state's Office of Emergency Services sent out its largest ever text alert to 12 million residents on Wednesday night, warning them of strong winds that could create extreme fire danger.

The alert was a response to criticism received in the wake of wildfires that swept through Northern California in October, killing at least 44. Residents there said they wished they had received an alert that there was a fire in their neighborhood, especially those who were asleep when the fire started. Because weather conditions in Southern California were expected to be similar to conditions in Northern California when those fires started, the state's Office of Emergency Services decided to send out the unprecedented alert to residents across seven counties.

"I would rather be criticized for potentially annoying someone than for not delivering a critical alert under these dangerous fire conditions," deputy director Kelly Huston told The Associated Press. The alert stated, "Strong winds overnight creating extreme fire danger. Stay alert. Listen to authorities." Officials feared winds would reach 80 mph in several areas, but the National Weather Service said Thursday it appeared models "over forecast" the force of the wind. In addition to the major blazes in Ventura County and Los Angeles County that have been burning for days, two more fires started Thursday in Riverside and San Diego counties.