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Los Angeles evacuation order was broadcast on TV 'in error,' authorities say

Los Angeles County accidentally sent out the evacuation order, which was received by some Ventura County residents, officials said. It came as wildfires tore across California, including the Route Fire near Castaic.
A firefighter watches as a wildfire burns Wednesday in Castaic, Calif.Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP

An evacuation order telling residents to leave Los Angeles immediately was accidentally broadcast on television Wednesday, authorities said.

Viewers in Ventura County who were watching TV at the time received the frightening alert, according to the Ventura County Sheriff's Office.

The notice "was sent in error by the County of Los Angeles," the sheriff's office said in a tweet shared in English and Spanish.

"There is no threat to Ventura County at this time and no need for residents to evacuate," it said.

It is not clear how many viewers saw the alert, which read: “Emergency alert system. A civil authority has issued an IMMEDIATE EVACUATION NOTICE for the following counties or areas," according to Bloomberg.

Los Angeles, Eastern North Pacific Ocean, and Port Conception to Guadalupe were included on the list, the news outlet reported. 

“That was scary!" one social media user wrote, tweeting out a photo of the alert on a television screen. "I called the Sheriff’s Office to see what was going on. LA better get it together," the user said.

"That’s a pretty big error," another person weighed in.

The alert came as wildfires tore across California on Wednesday, with the Route Fire near Castaic, north of Los Angeles, triggering a number of evacuations in the area.

As of Wednesday night, no structures had been destroyed in the Route Fire, but the blaze was more than 4,600 acres, and Interstate 5 was closed in both directions.

The County of Los Angeles did not appear to publicly comment on the accidental alert, but shared a tweet from the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management saying the Emergency Operations Center was "activated and monitoring developments" for the Route Fire.

In a statement from the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management, officials said: “The National Weather Service (NWS) Los Angeles/Oxnard transmitted a Non-Weather Emergency Message (NWEM) via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrator (NOAA) Weather Radio on behalf of the County of Los Angeles per the request of Los Angeles County Fire officials to support Evacuation notifications related to the Route Fire, a brush fire in the Castaic area.”

“Close coordination with the County of Los Angeles and the NWS ensured that the message was properly formatted for dissemination via Weather Radio for the targeted area, and worked as advertised,” they said. 

“NWEM has the capability to trigger Emergency Alert System (EAS) activation if requested by NWS for the proper type of event code as agreed upon with local broadcasters as part of the local EAS Plan. We have confirmed with NWS Los Angeles that the message was correctly configured and should not have triggered an EAS activation. We cannot comment on broadcaster configuration of EAS receivers and welcome further engagement with local broadcasters and Los Angeles County FCC Local Emergency Communications Committee to find root causes of this incident.”