IRVINE (CBSLA) — The public safety power shutoffs that were intended to prevent wind-whipped electrical lines from sparking brush also kept cell phones from alerting people about the Bond Fire, which erupted in the middle of the night.
The Bond Fire was ignited by a house fire before 10:15 p.m. Wednesday, but exploded overnight into the brush around Irvine and Lake Forest. But some residents in those areas said they had no idea what was going on until neighbors alerted them by pounding on their front doors or they saw the glow of the flames from their windows.
“I heard screams, like, ‘fire, fire, it’s right here, so we have to leave right now,” Jerry van Wolfgang said. “I looked out the window and it was already so big.”
A majority of people no longer have landlines and depend on their cell phones to communicate, either by phone or to access the internet. Many cell phone customers have opted to receiver emergency alerts via cell phone, but many forced to evacuate from the Bond Fire said they did not receive any such alert overnight.
Utilities like SoCal Edison have been de-powering electrical lines in fire prone areas when winds pick up. Cell phone companies like AT&T have alerted their customers in advance of such public safety power shutoffs so they can be aware of any wireless service interruptions.