Authorities in Los Angeles are asking drivers to avoid using GPS navigation apps, so they can steer clear of streets currently engulfed in flames due to the ongoing wildfires spread across the region.
Parts of LA—particularly Bel-Air, Lake View Terrace, and Sylmar—have been evacuated due to fires, reported the Los Angeles Times. As a precautionary measure, LA police are asking drivers to avoid navigation apps in those areas, which can direct them onto routes the apps perceive as being open.
The problem, of course, is the streets are on fire.
Rosario Herrera, public information officer for the Los Angeles police department, told Jalopnik that it’s not aware of any specific incidents involving drivers who used a navigation app and were led to a fire. The instruction is aimed as a preventative measure.
“The only thing we are saying is that, if people are using navigation apps, it might lead them toward the fire,” Herrera said. “Just to be cautious, and to navigate and take caution as far as to be aware of the fires, and not drive through the areas.”
Firefighters are stationed at certain roads closer to the scene, she added. So if drivers happened to follow an app and were led to the emergency zone, they’ll be directed away.
Herrera didn’t mention any companies in particular. But drivers everywhere rely on mapping apps from Google, which owns the real-time crowdsourced navigation app Waze, every day. So the situation presents an interesting question: what can these app developers do to help?
Waze told Jalopnik that it’s in “close touch” with LA’s transportation department, and that “all evacuation routes within the app are now currently up-to-date and accurate.”
“Fires are unpredictable but our map will continue to update in real time with information directly from our city contacts,” the company said.
As of 11 a.m. EDT, Waze said it closed 110 road segments on the app, of which 13 were identified by LA’s transportation department. The company also said that users can search the word “Help” to find the nearest shelter to their current location.
An emergency option is available through the app’s Roadside Help feature, which Waze said allows drivers to have the company “make emergency calls and be connected with police, ambulances, or the fire department without leaving the app.” The company said it has up-to-date evacuation routes active that are continuously being updated.
The wildfires have shown no sign of slowing down yet. Stay safe out there, everyone.