Newsletter: Essential California: Dixie fire’s ravaging path continues

Deer walk through a burned woodland
The Dixie fire destroyed most of the habitat for deer in the Greenville area.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Aug. 14.

Here’s a look at the top stories of the past week.

Residents refuse evacuation orders with guns in hand. About a month after it ignited in a remote canyon, the monster Dixie fire continues to break records. It became the second-largest wildfire in California history and now ranks among the state’s most destructive. The fire has leveled the Gold Rush town of Greenville and grown to more than 500,000 acres, destroying at least 1,045 structures. Yet some in its path refuse to leave their homes.

Newsom wants voters to ignore the recall ballot’s second question. For Gov. Gavin Newsom, the only thing that matters in the recall election he faces is how California voters fill out the part of the ballot that can keep him in office. Whether they understand that they also have the right to select a potential replacement isn’t part of his equation. Times columnist George Skelton says the only thing voters should skip is Gov. Newsom’s request. Skelton asks: “Weren’t we taught in school that it’s our solemn civic duty to participate in democracy by voting?”

Meanwhile, now the campaign really begins, as Newsom’s opponents and supporters launch statewide get-out-the-vote efforts and elections officials mail ballots to every registered voter in the state. Here is what you need to know about where the election stands.


California is doing better with the Delta variant than Florida and Texas. Despite a significant surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations this summer, California so far has managed to avoid the sky-high infection rates and increasingly overcrowded hospitals of some states: Florida and Texas. Experts say that’s because of California’s higher vaccination rates and re-implemented mandatory mask policies in parts of the state have helped prevent a more grim situation.

While the latest coronavirus surge is showing some signs of slowing in Los Angeles County, you can expect recorded infections will increase, in part, as a byproduct of ramped-up testing when schools, colleges and universities welcome students back for the new term.

Landlord sues L.A. for $100 million over anti-eviction law. GHP Management Corp., owned by real estate developer Geoffrey Palmer, said in its lawsuit that 12 buildings it manages have experienced more than $20 million in lost rental income as a result of the measure.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a two-month national moratorium on evictions, a measure that faces an uncertain future in a very skeptical U.S. Supreme Court. So what happens next?

Trevor Bauer’s lawyers say, ‘No settlements or cash offers.’ Trevor Bauer and his attorneys would like to make one thing perfectly clear: The Dodgers pitcher does not plan to discuss a financial settlement with the woman who has accused him of sexual assault. Major League Baseball’s commissioner’s office and the players union agreed Friday to extend Bauer’s leave from the Dodgers through Aug. 20. But that could cause problems for the commissioner.

Is everyone excited to go back to school? Back-to-school 2021, with California campuses fully open for 6 million children, was supposed to herald relief — even celebration — for a mostly normal school year ahead. But a surge in the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus has reignited parents’ anxiety — and, for many, the safety and quality of schooling once again feel uncertain and tenuous. Here are the crucial back-to-school answers that California parents need to think about.


Manslaughter charges filed against LAPD officer. The California attorney general’s office filed manslaughter and assault charges against a former Los Angeles police officer who fatally shot a mentally disabled man during an off-duty confrontation at a Costco store. The action is a step in the right direction, even as it raises a number of questions about the criminal justice process and its ability to hold police accountable free from political influence, The Times Editorial Board writes.

Questions arise over a video of a San Diego deputy’s contact with fentanyl. A public service video from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department about the dangers of fentanyl could harm the very people it’s meant to help: law enforcement officers and drug users. The inaccurate messaging in the video could instill unnecessary fear in first responders and may cause them to be reluctant to treat people who have overdosed.

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1. They had met at a party a few weeks earlier. Rylee Goodrich, a business marketing major, had an eyelash extension venture on the side. Anthony Barajas was making money from his TikTok popularity and was planning to move into an influencer house in L.A. They were at the movies on their first date. Then the gunshots started. Los Angeles Times

2. A woman accidentally launched her sedan over a 30-foot cliff in Santa Cruz after she was “spooked” when a man opened her car door, believing it was his family’s vehicle. Los Angeles Times

3. A Santa Barbara father suspected of killing his two children in Mexico told the FBI he was a QAnon adherent and had to kill them because they had been infected with serpent DNA and he was saving the world from monsters. Los Angeles Times


4. A former anti-vaxxer in Humboldt County was actively convincing people not to get vaccinated, claiming “it would do more harm than good.” After battling a severe case of COVID-19, he is now convincing others to get vaccinated. The Standard

5. U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez of San Diego made a trio of rulings that have upended California’s gun laws and launched him into the intensifying national debate over guns. Los Angeles Times

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

Mexico recalls but doesn’t celebrate Spanish conquest. Friday marked the 500th anniversary of the fall in 1521 of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlán, now the site of Mexico City. The bloody siege culminating in its surrender launched three centuries of Spanish dominion in Mexico. Los Angeles Times

Kate Winslet is talking about going back to Easttown. When the show wrapped production last year, Winslet had no idea how she could go about being herself again. It genuinely freaked her out. And because she didn’t want to break the spell of what Mare had meant to her, Winslet didn’t want to see anyone who didn’t know Mare, which, as you can well imagine, ruled out a lot of people. Los Angeles Times

This S.F. woman convinced 1,270 people to get vaccinated. Many vaccinations happen in the neighborhood by word of mouth, Felisia Thibodeaux said. One person gets it and tells another, then they tell another, and the cycle continues. Thibodeaux says that the key to convincing hesitant people is keeping it personal. SFGATE


Today’s week-in-review newsletter was curated by Seth Liss. Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to