back to article Los Angeles police tell drivers not to trust navigation apps as wildfires engulf area

As wildfires continue to rage around Los Angeles, the local police have asked drivers to be somewhat skeptical about navigation apps. So far, over 200,000 people have been ordered to evacuate their homes as the fires are spreading fast, helped by dry conditions and 80mph winds. With over 116,000 acres currently engulfed in …

  1. Mark 85 Silver badge

    One has to wonder if maybe Google itself is part of the problem. I'd lay odds that lots of people go to Google Maps, look at the traffic and then hit the satellite view: "See.. no fires there." and then the trouble starts. I've known some who have done this and then run into a blizzard or other weather event.

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      The satellite view for my area hasn't been updated for three years. I know this because a car I once borrowed (three years ago) can be seen on the driveway.

      1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        We know that Google have accurate dates for their satellite imagery because Google Earth can give you a list of dates to choose from. Since they have the information, it would be a good idea for their app and/or in-car nav system to show


        across its top edge when a punter switches to satellite view, just to make it blindingly obvious that the driver is not looking at real-time data.

        Come to think of it, dating the maps would be a good idea too, though that doesn't need to be as prominently displayed.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          I was going to suggest this is ludicrous

          Then I thought about all the TV shows where it is easy for spies or even hacker cops to tap into live satellite views down to the street level, so the average clueless person might think it is a live or almost live view and not months or years old.

    2. Christian Berger Silver badge

      (half OT) I think it was some police in Germany that seriously considered patrouling the streets via StreetView.

      1. DougS Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        This is where I'd hit the 'LOL' icon if this was on Facebook, though perhaps I should hit the crying face icon instead so Paris.

  2. DNTP

    Don't drive into a raging wildfire...

    ...just because the little celebrity voice in your magic map box says to. Don't reach into the woodchipper with your hand to clear a jam even if you are 'fast enough'. Don't take the toaster into the shower with you 'for efficiency'. Don't dry off your wallet, pet, or baby in the microwave oven. Do not light firework indoors or insert lit firework into any bodily cavity or orifice. Do not place plastic bag over head, or provide bag to children inclined to do so. Finland is not a real country. Do not vent propane tank into an enclosed space or near an ignition source. Do not deploy smoke grenade inside aircraft under any fucking circumstances. DO NOT IGNORE COMMON SENSE OR MAINTAIN A LACK THEREOF.

    1. TechDrone

      Re: Don't drive into a raging wildfire...

      Finland is not a real country?

      I know a few colleagues who's like to debate that point with you. But you'll have to wait untill it's spring for them to be sober enough to talk.

      1. DNTP

        Re: Techdrone

        This guy reads carefully!

        The modern concept of "Finland" is a fiction created by Japan and the USSR shortly after WW2 in order to secure exclusive fishing rights to the Gulf of Bothnia (much larger than it appears on modern maps) located between Sweden, Estonia and Russia. People who identify as "Fins" are in fact the coastal inhabitants of Sweden, northern Estonia, and Western Russia, and this erroneous tradition has been willfully perpetuated by all the national actors in this conspiracy. In modern times, the UN has tacitly endorsed "Finland" as a social ideal for real countries to try to live up to.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Techdrone

          "The modern concept of "Finland" is a fiction created by Japan and the USSR shortly after WW2"

          Is _THAT_ why 'Nokia' sounds like it might be a Japanese company?

          since we're working on conspiracy theories, how about THIS one:

          Jerry Brown, Demo-Rat governor of Cali-Fornicate-You, CAUSED the fires in Ventura and San Diego counties. Why? He KEPT! PEOPLE! FROM! WATERING! THEIR! YARDS! through ridiculous water restrictions [San Diego county has a SURPLUS of water right now, and a de-sal plant] because SOME counties in Cali-Fornicate-You still have "drought status". I BS you not!

          And the reason FOR the drought? DELTA SMELT *MUST* live, and we must DRAIN THE RESERVOIRS in order to SAVE them! [google for the details, you're welcome, "delta smelt" and "sacramento river" oughta do it]. That's right, MOMMY GAIA is _PUNISHING_ _US_ for using TOO many resources, and we didn't cut back in time, and now she's BURNING US TO DEATH!!!

          But Jerry "2nd time around" Brown will NEVER "take the heat" for this. No, no, he's a GOOD Demo-Rat!

          yeah conspiracies are SO much fun! Icon, because, conspiracy theories.

          1. disgruntled yank Silver badge

            Re: Techdrone

            Bob, it appears that California is heading for a shortage of capital letters and exclamation points. Should I email Governor Brown?

            Remind me how failure to water lawns induces wildfires. Would hairy-chested libertarian Californians be heading out to water the scrub and grasslands but for socialist oppression?

            (And I am very disappointed that you didn't reach for Mike Royko's old "Governor Moonbeam" moniker for Jerry Brown. Kids today...)

            1. DougS Silver badge

              Re: Techdrone

              I don't think bob was promoting that Jerry Brown conspiracy theory because he believed it, just as an example of the crazy shit people will come up with. And unfortunately conspiracy theories that are based in politics, nationalism or religion (these days they are all one in the same) will automatically win some adherents because it fits in with their biases and preconceived ideas. The left pushes their own conspiracy theory blaming global warming for the wildfires, which fits in with their "religion" equally well as "big government democrat made all the lawns brown and burnable".

              The real blame goes to California's policy of fighting every fire, even in conditions where they can be easily controlled or areas where they will do no damage to lives or property. Prior that policy, there were lots of small fires that meant the amount of fuel available for future fires was less and areas that had not burned in decades were small and surrounded by areas that had burned more recently.

              Instead the amount of fuel increases every year. If they had recently had small fires that burned here and there those areas of natural firebreaks with less fuel would make it much harder that a big fire could cross them and grow to the immense sizes we're seeing now.

              1. kain preacher Silver badge

                Re: Techdrone


                California does do controlled burns but the issue is prolonged and it started in hard to reach areas. Oh and the Santa ann winds are not making things better. Dry gusts of air.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Techdrone

          1917 is shortly after WWII ? Cause that;s when Finland became a country .

          1. David Nash Silver badge

            Re: Techdrone

            Surely it's not the only modern country that is made up of others, or bits of others? Doesn't mean you should sneer at them.

        3. BongoJoe

          Re: Techdrone

          One of the health and safety notices that I have saved came with my drumstool: "Do not use in earthquakes"

        4. disgruntled yank Silver badge

          Re: Techdrone

          Then why does El Reg have all these articles mentioning Fintech? Is it part of the conspiracy?

    2. Kernel Silver badge

      Re: Don't drive into a raging wildfire...

      "Finland is not a real country."

      I really do hope that you just forgot the joke icon with this one - it's not only a real country but they're currently in the process of celebrating 100 years of independence.

      I also have quite a number of colleagues who would dispute your statement.

      1. DNTP

        Re: Finland

        No one seriously believes Finland isn't real.

        Except Reddit.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Don't drive into a raging wildfire...


      As someone once said: "Common sense isn't common.."

    4. streaky Silver badge

      Re: Don't drive into a raging wildfire...

      This is the point. It isn't don't trust your GPS system, it's open your fucking eyes and look where you're going. Literally just occurred to me though, this could get interesting if self-driving cars ever become the norm and you're napping in the back and your car drives you into a wild fire and says fuckit you're on your own friend.

      1. ravenviz

        Re: Don't drive into a raging wildfire...

        My mobile view of the article had a self-driving car ad slap bang in the middle of the text!

    5. IanTP

      Re: Don't drive into a raging wildfire...

      LOL, you forgot one though, some twat this side of the pond (Wolverhampton) just cemented a microwave to his head and had to be released by the local fire brigade. Link -

      1. kain preacher Silver badge

        Re: Don't drive into a raging wildfire...

        "Man 'cements microwave to head' in Wolverhampton"

        Reading that title broke my brain. So I hopped on google and read the full article. brain still broken. The fire brigade should of use a sledge hammer.

      2. Biztalk

        Re: Don't drive into a raging wildfire...

        This may be my favourite story of the year!

    6. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Don't drive into a raging wildfire...

      "...Don't reach into the woodchipper with your hand to clear a jam even if you are 'fast enough'. Don't take the toaster into the shower with you..."

      Look, anyone stupid enough to try any of these things doesn't deserve to be in the gene pool any more. Unless they really are quicker than a woodchipper, in which case that's exactly the sort of thing we want in the gene pool.

      1. kain preacher Silver badge

        Re: Don't drive into a raging wildfire...

        not sure phuzz cause that still shows a lack of thinking.

  3. FozzyBear Silver badge


    the LA police need to stop Interfering with Darwin 's good work.

    If an advisory of this type is needed there is not much hope in fixing that level of stupid.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Seriously

      Some of the roads concerned are quite long and windy between junctions. It's entirely possible to start driving down it, and not see so much as a whiff of smoke for several miles after you've passed the last junction at which you could have chosen a different route.

      If more than a handful of cars get themselves into this situation, you have a recipe for a certain amount of chaos and doubt as they all try to turn around.

      It's not necessarily that stupid.

  4. PhilipN Silver badge


    Perhaps some kind soul from Dan Unda could jump in here but I thought Australia learned how to avoid the worst bush fires (stop sniggering at the back) by controlled burns when debris was just a light covering on the forest floor. That way the trees were not affected ergo high winds had limited impact - and/or fire breaks actually worked - and little critters had a chance to hop to safety.

    Would it not work in SoCal - too mountainous? Although I can quite imagine the typical Californicator fighting like hell to oppose any such strategy - while submitting to police orders (!) to vacate their homes when a firestorm threatened.

    1. John Gamble

      Re: Prevention

      It's Not That Simpletm.

      This sort of thing is controlled by cutting down brush ('controlled' fires near -- or even reasonably far from -- inhabited areas are never going to happen), and it takes time, money and, as you point out, coverage of land that is far from flat.

      Depending on the year's conditions, nature can easily overtake human intervention, resulting in lots of fuel.

    2. FozzyBear Silver badge

      Re: Prevention

      Whilst we do do controlled burns, it comes down to resources (people and money). Not to mention there are large areas that are too inaccessible to properly manage controlled burn offs. Was a volunteer for the RFS in my younger and fitter days.

      There is also the ongoing battle with the greenies that seem to burst into flames at the mention of controlled burning. That outrage then changes from "Don't you dare destroy our environment" to "Why didn't you do more to prevent this" the instant their home goes up in flames.

      1. PhilipN Silver badge

        Re: Prevention


        I had to look up RFS so if you were volunteering there - as they say in your neck of the woods "Good on ya, sport".

        And what morons would choose to DV your post which was a direct reply, helpful and informative. Greenies - three of them?

        In that case I shall put the cat amongst the pidgeons and state (I believe) controlled burns are overall beneficial to the local eco system.

        Uncontrolled growth of scrub is not.

  5. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    And another thing for the autonomous car AI to learn.

  6. c1ue

    Waze grwat except when yiu get shot

    It is a fairly regular occurrence in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro (more Rio) that some tourist comes into town, rents a car, which steers them through the NJ traffic favela.

    Besides the homemade speed bumps inserted to help gangs escape police, a black sedan - even if driven by a tourist - will get shot up on the off chance it is a rival gang coming to visit.

    1. Marcelo Rodrigues

      Re: Waze grwat except when yiu get shot

      "Besides the homemade speed bumps inserted to help gangs escape police, a black sedan - even if driven by a tourist - will get shot up on the off chance it is a rival gang coming to visit."

      To the benefit of You, not Brazilians, that are not used to our state of affairs:

      The car WILL be shot upon. With AR15, AK-47, M-16 and whatnot. If you are really unlucky (more unlucky than this?), one or two HE grenades too.

      The .50 they save for the police armored vehicles. And no, I am not kidding.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You certainly would not want to use TomTom..

    TomTom has a nasty habit of imitating your average incompetent government by frequently advising U turns. Not the best approach if you want to stay away from fires.

    That said, its dynamic rerouting does actually work, so maybe it's not THAT bad :).

  8. andyp-random-number

    Modern systems

    In this modern world I thought we were promised a system whereby when something changed (BT dug up the road, crash blocked the closed a road) the brilliant system would have the ability for police, fire, other authority people to simply click a button and update the wonderful databases so that Sat Navs automatically got the latest and greatest info seamlessly.

    ...everything is connected, a hacker can get into one system then hop between systems and change info without us knowing for months, yet no authority knows how to click the button telling sat navs not to use this road?

    Why can't sat navs simply download the latest data. Surely the fire and police have put on a computer the fact that road xyz is unfit to be used? I genuinely thought this is how the overall system would work.

    1. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Re: Modern systems

      There's your scenario for the 3rd version of "The Italian Job": Snarl traffic in Venice by hacking the system to claim the Grand Canal is on fire (Sadly believable, even if Benny Hill is unavailable to do the hacking)

      As for Finland, this "Not a country" thing is obviously just the raving of someone disgruntled because when they looked for Tom's of Finland they ended up at Tom's of Maine (or maybe Tom's Hardware).

      If there was no Finland, who was flying those Brewster Buffalos against the Soviets, with help from the Luftwaffe?

      1. disgruntled yank Silver badge

        Re: Modern systems

        Upvoted for the mention of Brewster Buffalos.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Modern systems

      Why can't sat navs simply download the latest data.

      Because, fck you very much, I like to keep my navigation OFFLINE. Once a month updating for the latest maps is quite enough.

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