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Essential California: ‘No patience’ for climate denial

Burned trees silhouetted by the sun
Burned trees silhouetted by the sun on Tuesday near the smoldering remains of Cressman’s General Store along CA-168, which burned in the Creek fire.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Sept. 9, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

“I quite literally have no patience for climate change deniers,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday, as 25 major fires raged across California and a red flag warning for critical fire weather remained in place over much of the state.

“You may not believe it intellectually,” the governor continued, raising a finger to his temple. “But your own eyes, your own experiences, tell a different story.”

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[See also: “Californians fleeing wildfires are talking about climate change like never before” in the Los Angeles Times]

The worst of California’s fire season usually doesn’t hit until October. But here we are in early September, with more than 2.3 million acres already scorched statewide. That number marks a new record — not just for acreage burned across the state by this point in the year, but for the entirety of any modern recorded fire season.

The state is facing what the governor referred to as “unprecedented confluence of issues.” Over the past month, we’ve seen a heat dome that impacted the entire West Coast, roughly 12,000 lightning strikes over a 72-hour period and some of the highest temperatures ever recorded in L.A. County. We’re also dealing with millions of dead trees — 150 million, the governor estimated — victims of years of drought.

[Previously: “As second heat wave sears California, experts say health impacts will worsen with climate change” in the Los Angeles Times]

Tuesday brought some relief from the crushing heat, but the wildfires kept raging. As my colleagues report, this year’s fire season could get much worse in the coming days as powerful winds heighten the danger of more blazes while firefighters continue to struggle across the state.

In Southern California, Santa Ana winds were expected to build up throughout Tuesday night, potentially pushing three major fires towards towns and suburbs: the Bobcat fire burning in the San Gabriel Mountains above Monrovia, the El Dorado fire near Yucaipa and the Valley fire in San Diego County near the Mexican border. In Northern California, strong Diablo winds were expected to fan flames.

(Here are quick primers on Southern California’s Santa Ana winds and Northern California’s similar Diablo winds. Both are sometimes referred to as “devil winds” for their effect, though the Diablo winds actually take their name from Mt. Diablo in the Bay Area.)

And the Creek fire in the Sierra Nevada has quickly become one of the largest wildfires in the state this year. It had burned at least 162,833 acres as of Tuesday night and was 0% contained.

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What else you need to know

If you live in California and are lucky enough to be outside the risk zones for any of the current fires, there’s a good chance you’re still dealing with air quality issues and falling ash. It’s important to know that wildfire ash may contain toxic chemicals and protect yourself accordingly.

As my colleague Deborah Netburn explained in a recent story, you should avoid skin contact with wildfire ash. Do not clean up ash yourself if you have lung or heart problems, and never use leaf blowers to blast it away. The South Coast Air Quality Management District recommends cleaning ash with damp cloths, or if it’s on your car, visiting a car wash.

Here are some tips and warnings from the Bay Area AQMD on dealing with the bad air.

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More on the fires:

  • The Bobcat fire in the Angeles National Forest keeps growing, and winds could push it into Monrovia, Arcadia and other foothill communities. Los Angeles Times
  • By Tuesday afternoon, California National Guard helicopter crews had rescued a total of 373 people from the flames of the Creek fire. The blaze grew to more than 100,000 acres over the Labor Day weekend and left hikers, campers and others stranded in remote locations of the Sierra Nevada with no apparent way out. Los Angeles Times
  • Power shut-offs, fires and heat have fueled a spike in Bay Area generator sales. In a now-annual practice, panicked customers flocked to purchase or repair generators as worries mounted around keeping fridges, medical equipment and other essentials running. San Francisco Chronicle

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Orange County gets the OK to reopen indoor restaurants, movie theaters and houses of worship. Orange County received some much-anticipated and welcome news in its battle against the coronavirus on Tuesday as it officially moved into the second stage of California’s four-tiered, color-coded reopening system. The reclassification allows for more businesses to ease restrictions and open with limited capacity. Four other counties also moved from Tier 1 (purple) to Tier 2 (red) on Tuesday: Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Amador and Placer. Los Angeles Times

Why does California’s power grid keep flirting with disaster? Energy reporter Sammy Roth sat down with the president of the California ISO, the nonprofit corporation that manages most of the state’s power grid, for answers. Los Angeles Times

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

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L.A. STORIES

Deputies fired projectiles into the crowd Monday night during the third night of Dijon Kizzee protests in South L.A. Kizzee was fatally shot by sheriff’s deputies last week. Los Angeles Times

New Oscars standards will require inclusion criteria for would-be best picture contenders. Starting in 2024, movies will need to meet specific inclusion standards in order to be eligible for the best picture Oscar. Los Angeles Times

“Door-to-door trick-or-treating is not allowed.” The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has released new coronavirus guidelines for Halloween. CBS LA

The Autry Museum’s chief executive is retiring. A UCLA historian will take over. Los Angeles Times

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IMMIGRATION AND THE BORDER

Immigrants, hit hard by the pandemic, are sending even more money back to Mexico. “I think, initially, it was a surprise,” Ismael Plascencia, faculty director of business at the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, said of the rise in remittances. “But it makes sense. People in the United States are very worried for their families in Mexico — for their health — that’s why they are sending more money.” Los Angeles Times

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

A slimmed-down GOP coronavirus relief package: Republicans plan to vote on a new coronavirus bill, but it isn’t likely to pass and is less generous than the GOP plan unveiled just weeks ago. Los Angeles Times

Recasting a dubious record, President Trump declares himself “the great environmentalist.” Since taking office, Trump has shredded dozens of environmental protections, dismissed the scientific consensus on climate change and tapped energy lobbyists to lead the agencies entrusted with safeguarding the country’s natural resources, but he dramatically recast his record in an effort to woo environmentally minded voters. Los Angeles Times

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CRIME AND COURTS

Seven people were shot to death at the site of an apparent illegal marijuana grow in the Inland Empire over Labor Day weekend, authorities said. Los Angeles Times

HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Santa Rosa’s water missteps leave farmers facing dry fields. The city miscalculated its stored water forecast near the beginning of the irrigation season, leading to sudden limits on water use that farmers say will cost them dearly in an already dry year. Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Plague-bearing fleas sparked closures at popular Lake Tahoe sites. This comes after a South Lake Tahoe resident recently tested positive for the bubonic plague, the first case in California since 2015. SFGATE

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Marion Moses, Cesar Chavez confidant and expert on farmworkers’ health, has died at 84. She became an authority on pesticide poisoning of farm laborers, advocated for their healthcare and better working conditions and led the nation’s first medical study on migrant farmworkers in the 1990s. Los Angeles Times

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Cesar Chavez, left, and Marion Moses in an undated photograph.
Cesar Chavez, left, and Marion Moses in an undated photograph.
(Courtesy of Victor Alemán / 2mun-dos communications)

IKEA will open its first urban U.S. mall project in San Francisco in the fall of 2021. The IKEA store will be about 20% of the size of the company’s typically sprawling showrooms, as part of an effort to expand into cities with a more compact format. San Francisco Chronicle

Another Facebook worker has quit in disgust, saying the company “is on the wrong side of history.” Washington Post

A poem to start your Wednesday: “Home to Roost” by Kay Ryan. Poetry Foundation

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: sunny, 85. San Diego: partly sunny, 80. San Francisco: partly sunny, 75. San Jose: partly sunny, 87. Fresno: sunny, 96. Sacramento: sunny, 94. More weather is here.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from James W. Laughner:

In the summer of 1967, my family camped in uncrowded Yosemite Valley for a week. The young, differently-dressed, long-haired group gathered at the bridge knocked me out. They “fished” with spaghetti, hooks optional. They would get a free cigarette, light it, put it in their mouth backward, jump off the bridge, and come up smoking. They looked, talked and acted “cool.” They talked to me like I was one of them even though I was only 13, so I spent time there each day. When I left, my memories of hikes and good times were inside a more open mind.

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If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.


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