California residents looking to avoid routes that were full of hazards from the wildfires burning across the southern region of the state were getting directions that accomplished the opposite of that this week. As fires burned and spread rapidly due to the Santa Ana winds, dry brush, and lack of rain, navigation apps struggled to keep up with which roads were safe to use and which weren’t during the evacuation process.
Photos and videos from the region show flames that look almost like lava covering hills and at the side of the road. Open land is burning as are neighborhoods, including some of the wealthiest in Los Angeles county. The fires were so large and causing so much smoke that they were actually visible from space.
The Google-developed Waze app, uses information from users about traffic, road hazards, construction and other route obstructions, and relies heavily on real time reports and frequently updated data. As the fire spread, the maps weren’t updating quickly enough for users who were trying to avoid the fires.
Some users were tweeting that the app was actually sending them to parts of California that were burning, rather than giving them directions to get around the hazardous areas. This could be due to the fact that those roads were clear with little to no traffic, otherwise perfect driving conditions, except for the smoke and fire around them that is.
The company tweeted on Thursday that it was working with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and other Waze users to mark road closures and shelters along routes.
The issue wasn’t specific to Waze either, drivers using Apple Maps and Google Maps were having similar issues.
A USA Today reporter who was covering the fires and looking for a route to the Getty Center was directed right into a neighborhood in Bel Air that was in flames, USA Today reported.
To help the apps create more accurate and safe routes, users who find that they’re being directed along dangerous routes can report a problem with the app. To do this in the Google maps app, select the “more” icon in the upper left corner near the search bar, it looks like three lines stacked up. Then select “Help & Feedback” and then “Send Feedback” there you can report an issue with the data in the app. For Apple Maps, select the information button on the home screen and then “Report an issue.” For Waze, open the app and hit “reports” and then “map issue.”