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California: This just in
L.A.'s record-breaking heat wave is about to end; Southland, rejoice

The sweltering heat wave gripping Southern California is about to crash.

Temperatures are expected to drop roughly 10 degrees on Thursday, giving residents across the region their first substantial break from triple-digit heat in days.

That means inland areas should see temperatures in the mid-80s, and the beaches will see highs in the mid-70s, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures are expected to fall by a few degrees more on Friday, where they'll remain through the weekend.

The respite couldn't come at a better time. Tuesday's intense heat helped cities to topple or tie a number of longtime high-temperature records. The oldest was in downtown Los Angeles, where the 1889 record of 103 degrees was tied, according to the National Weather Service.

Records were also met in Camarillo, Santa Ana, Long Beach and at UCLA.

The high of 99 recorded in Santa Barbara on Tuesday beat that city's 1979 record by nine degrees.

Even as the heat wave started to wane on Wednesday, moist...

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California wildfires: Thousands evacuated, fires explode in size

Thousands of residents who live near the American River in the Eldorado National Forest in Northern California remained evacuated Wednesday as a fast-moving wildfire exploded by 6,000 acres overnight.

The King fire continues to threaten thousands of homes and structures as winds drive it east, west and north over mountain and ridges and through deep canyon troughs.

Sustained heat and wind have steered the flames toward parched vegetation that has been left tinder-dry by California's prolonged drought, creating towering smoke plumes that have kept firefighters from clearly seeing the fire’s behavior, U.S Forest Service officials said.

The fire, which erupted Saturday evening, has burned 18,544 acres and is only 5% contained.

So far, no structures have been reported damaged or destroyed, but as the fire fans out, 1,632 homes and an additional 816 structures are being threatened, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Residents were being advised to seek shelter at Camino Seventh-day...

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Cruiser the 90-pound stolen tortoise is back home, still 'a little upset'

Karen Short got the surprise of a lifetime early Wednesday when her beloved 90-pound tortoise, Cruiser, was returned unharmed six days after he was stolen from her yard.

Her hero: a man who purchased Cruiser for $200 at a fair in Wilmington but then saw Short's public appeal for help in the media.

"I am just overjoyed and elated," she said.

Short had been offering a $100 reward for the safe return of the sulcata tortoise, but the man declined it, saying he didn't feel it was right because Cruiser had been stolen.

Cruiser was taken from Short's fenced frontyard, where she normally keeps him along with a second tortoise, named Tank. It was there that the pair had become neighborhood celebrities, attracting children and seniors alike.

You might think it would be hard to gauge a tortoise's spirits. But Short said she sees her pet is "a little upset." Being swiped, carried off and resold at a fair hasn't been easy for him.

"He doesn't understand," Short said. "He's an animal."

Now that...

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UC task force unveils guidelines on fighting campus sexual misconduct

Aiming to create a national model to combat sexual misconduct, the University of California unveiled recommendations Wednesday aimed at a more uniform, systemwide approach to preventing and responding to violence on campus.

In the first of two reports, a 29-member task force appointed by UC President Janet Napolitano presented to regents proposals for increased training, education and services.

“The message is a very simple one,” Napolitano said in an interview. “Our students and faculty and staff should be safe. We will not tolerate sexual assault on our campuses.”

The recommendations include:

-- Mandatory education and training of all students, staff and faculty on sexual misconduct. The task force specifically recommended separating the issue of sexual assault from alcohol awareness education to avoid blaming the problem on alcohol rather than the perpetrator.

-- Establishing an independent and confidential advocacy office for sexual violence and assault. The offices, to be located on...

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Firefighters keep watch in Weed after destructive blaze

Firefighters are keeping a wary eye on the remnants of a wildfire that devastated the town of Weed, hoping a potential surge of high winds doesn't spread any embers that could spark new blazes.

Meanwhile, many residents are still unable to return to their devastated neighborhoods to take stock of what remains. The fast-moving, intense fire destroyed or damaged about 150 buildings, including many homes, two churches and a library.

“It took on a life of its own," said Michael Kobseff, the Siskiyou County supervisor whose district includes Weed. "No one could have foreseen anything like this happening.”

Officials are still assessing the damage from the blaze, called the Boles fire after the creek where it began. The cause remains under investigation, and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Amy Head said there was a $10,000 award for information.

At a community meeting on Tuesday night, officials said the ongoing drought helped fuel the blaze. 

Without rain,...

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L.A. schools police will return grenade launchers but keep rifles, armored vehicle

Los Angeles Unified school police officials said Tuesday that the department will relinquish some of the military weaponry it acquired through a federal program that furnishes local law enforcement with surplus equipment. The move comes as education and civil rights groups have called on the U.S. Department of Defense to halt the practice for schools.

The Los Angeles School Police Department, which serves the nation's second-largest school system, will return three grenade launchers but intends to keep 61 rifles and a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicle it received through the program.

L.A. Unified is one of at least 22 school systems in eight states that participate in the program, which provides law enforcement agencies with the extra military-grade gear at no charge.

The program gained notoriety and received sharp criticism after recent unrest in Ferguson, Mo., in which local police deployed armored vehicles, wore body armor and carried assault rifles while attempting to...

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187 beach rescues in one day amid rip currents: How to save yourself

Lifeguards made 187 rescues at Los Angeles County beaches Tuesday -- 88 of them at Venice Beach alone. 

The rescues unfolded as an estimated 255,000 people visited county beaches, trying to escape the intense heat wave that has gripped Los Angeles this week. The beaches were experiencing powerful rip currents Tuesday, and some swimmers underestimated their pull. 

Rip currents occur as incoming surf traps water near the shoreline. The water then flows along the shore until it reaches a dip in the floor, which channels the water back out to sea, creating a fast-moving current that can snare swimmers.

To escape a rip current, officials say swimmers should allow themselves to be carried seaward until the current weakens, then swim parallel to the beach until out of its grasp.

A powerful storm near New Zealand has been pounding California's coastline with higher than normal surf and unusually strong rip currents, said National Weather Service meteorologist Stuart Seto.

The storm’s wind is...

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Feuer to co-chair new national group Prosecutors Against Gun Violence

Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer and Manhattan Dist. Atty. Cyrus Vance Jr. will lead a new coalition of nearly two dozen prosecutors as they explore policies to reduce gun violence, officials announced Wednesday.

Prosecutors Against Gun Violence includes prosecuting attorneys in cities across the nation, including Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia and Boston. They will meet Oct. 21-22 in Atlanta for a national summit on gun violence.

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey and San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascon are also part of the coalition. 

The group plans to focus on policies to reduce gang violence and weapons trafficking. Prosecutors will also explore connections linking domestic violence, mental health and gun-related crimes.

“Together, prosecutors across our nation can make a major impact on the gun violence afflicting our communities,” Feuer said in a statement. “Our members will draw from our colleagues’ most effective strategies and join forces to advance policies...

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L.A. heat wave: Add lightning, heavy rain to today's extreme weather

From sweltering heat to heavy downpours and lightning storms, extreme weather will continue to plague the Southland on Wednesday as monsoonal moisture mixes with triple-digit temperatures, forecasters warned.

The combination of moisture and record-breaking heat is likely to mean yet another day of wacky weather for the Inland Empire, which on Tuesday saw heavy downpours, lightning and strong winds.

Lake Elsinore was particularly hard-hit with street flooding and downed power lines and trees. Lightning struck a home in Crestline, setting it on fire.

Moist air again will mix with high heat Wednesday, probably creating more thunderstorms and lightning, according to forecasters.

Any thunderstorm that does develop is likely to be slow-moving and produce heavy rain, creating the potential for flash flooding, according to the National Weather Service. And as remnants of Hurricane Odile move up from Baja California, up to 2 inches of rain could drop in Southern California’s deserts.

The rain...

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Alligator report is false, but police do get one 'aggressive' lizard

Police officers responding to reports Monday of an alligator on the loose in Huntington Park were probably relieved when they found themselves wrangling a 3-foot-long Tegu lizard instead.

However, it still took three officers to capture and wrangle the “very aggressive” lizard into a cardboard box.

Los Angeles County animal control officers identified the reptile as a 2-year-old Tegu lizard, which hails from South America and is popular in the commercial pet trade.

It was unclear where it came from or how it got free.

So far, no one has stepped forward to claim ownership of the lizard, police said in an update posted Tuesday on the department's Facebook page.

The lizard is being kept at the county animal shelter in Carson.

For news as it happens in California, follow @JasonBretWells.

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Man critically burned while tampering with power lines in Vernon

A man was critically burned Tuesday night after tampering with power lines in Vernon, fire officials said.

The incident occurred about 8:45 p.m. in the 2300 block of South Santa Fe Avenue, the Los Angeles Fire Department said.

The unidentified man was hospitalized in critical condition.

Callers to 911 initially believed that the man was injured after a vehicle struck a power pole, but authorities determined he was tinkering with power lines when he was burned.

For breaking news, follow @AdolfoFlores3.

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Man suffers 'head to toe' burns in propane explosion

A 40-year-old man delivering propane to a metal business in Boyle Heights suffered burns to his entire body Tuesday during a sudden flashover explosion.

The man was pumping propane from his truck into a tank at Ekco Metals near the 1700 block of Perrino Place when there was an explosion that resulted in a fireball that burned him "from head to toe," LAFD spokesman Brian Humphrey said.

The man, who works for an energy company, was taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where he is "fighting for his life," Humphrey said.

"We are hopeful for his survival," he said.

The flashover ignited a small blaze, but it was quickly extinguished.

Firefighters believe gas from the truck or tank possibly set off the explosion, Humphrey said.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health plans to investigate the incident.

For breaking news in Los Angeles and throughout California, follow @VeronicaRochaLAShe can be reached at veronica.rocha@latimes.com.

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