California lawmakers look into emergency alert system after North Bay Fires

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Two months after multiple wildfires raced through several California counties, state lawmakers are looking into an Emergency Alert System.

That system, in some counties, was criticized for not warning residents about flames threatening their neighborhoods.

The scene of intense heat coupled with record setting wind speed made it challenging for firefighters and emergency officials.

But why weren't communities notified by text through a mass alert system? That question is one of many being raised by lawmakers today.

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"Do we have backup systems in place so we can respond, just in case those cell towers go out as a result of the fire?" asked Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson.

In Sonoma County, officials decided not to send notifications by phone.

Jackson says the discussion is not about pointing fingers, just about being better prepared. "Even if you had a wireless system that was working 100 percent, arguably, people turn their phones off at night, they are asleep." she said.

Cal Fire officials and other emergency personnel presented data about the magnitude of the October wildfires and the lack of resources to respond.

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Evacuation was the top priority, given so many lives were in danger.

"This was a natural disaster literally unlike anything California has experienced in decades," said Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott.

Pimlott says the Tubbs Fire in Sonoma moved at the speed of one football field length every minute.

"There has to be lessons learned going forward," said Jackson

The committee hearing is the first of two scheduled meetings. The next one is scheduled for December 14. The discussions are aimed at reviewing all angles of the devastating October wildfires.

Lawmakers say they'll use the information to help the state be better prepared for the future, given the fact that wildfire danger in California is a year-round reality.

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