Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: Fire threatens the famed sequoias

A firefighter hoses down hot spots around a sequoia tree
A firefighter hoses down hot spots around a sequoia tree in the Trail of 100 Giants as the Windy fire burns in Sequoia National Forest on Monday.
(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Sept. 25.

Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week

Fiery fall. As the intense fire season lives up to the forecasts, crews Friday were battling multiple large wildfires across California — including one that has been linked to arson. The Fawn fire in Shasta County ignited Wednesday as the Windy fire and KNP Complex threatened the state’s famed sequoia trees.

COVID-19 updates. California has the lowest coronavirus case rate of any state, federal figures show. The state took key steps to tackle the Delta variant, though the results have been uneven. The Inland Empire, with the lowest vaccination rate in Southern California, has seen its hospitals struggle.

New climate package. Standing before a foil-wrapped, fireproofed monument in Sequoia National Park amid a haze of wildfire smoke, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed a $15-billion climate package for California, the largest such investment in state history.

Charges filed. The Shasta County district attorney’s office has filed 31 criminal charges against Pacific Gas & Electric for its role in the 2020 Zogg fire, which killed four people and destroyed more than 200 buildings, officials said Friday.

Murder trial for Flores. A San Luis Obispo County judge ruled that Paul Flores will be tried for murder in the 1996 disappearance of Kristin Smart and that his father must also answer to charges that he was an accessory to the crime.

George Holliday dies. He filmed the video of four Los Angeles police officers beating Rodney King in 1991, a clip that changed L.A. in ways that were unfathomable and dragged Holliday into a life he never bargained for.

Targeting critics? A watchdog panel that oversees the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on Thursday asked county attorneys to look into whether a special investigative unit that targeted critics of Sheriff Alex Villanueva had broken the law.

Order overturned. A federal appeals court Thursday unanimously overturned a judge’s decision that would have required Los Angeles to offer some form of shelter or housing to the entire homeless population of skid row by October.

Southern California turns on the taps. Despite an appeal by Newsom for all Californians to voluntarily cut water use by 15%, Southern California has lagged in conservation efforts and even increased water consumption slightly in Los Angeles and San Diego counties.

Where’s the proof? The FBI seized money and valuables in safety deposit boxes belonging to roughly 800 people. Six months later, it has produced no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the vast majority of box holders whose belongings the government is trying to keep.

Enjoying this newsletter?

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a Times subscriber.

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

California’s wildfires have claimed lives and homes, but the giant sequoias, called the Ancient Ones by Native Americans, have stood in some cases for millenniums and are one of the largest living things on Earth. Until very recently, many thought of them as nearly immortal.

The pandemic economy has pushed Southern California’s competitive housing market into such overdrive that a defining marker of wealth — the million-dollar home — is now the norm in a growing number of places.

A 189-word obituary titled “A Special Sister” became a poignant internet phenomenon. The grief was palpable. So was the love. Karen Ann Sydow died Sept. 5 at the age of 61, and two days after her death, her brother, Erik Sydow, began sketching out a written tribute.

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our game center at


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