Newsletter: Fires explode across the state


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, Oct. 25, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

It has been a harrowing 36 hours for many Californians. Violent winds swept in on Wednesday night, fueling an eruption of fires: First Northern California wine country, then San Bernardino, Orange County, Marin County, Santa Clarita, Eagle Rock and the San Fernando Valley. Firefighters were able to control some while others exploded out of control.

The extreme weather conditions will continue into this weekend, heightening both the fire threat and the likelihood of more widespread power outages as utilities try to prevent electrical lines from sparking more blazes.

Before many of the fires broke out, Gov. Gavin Newsom said these mass blackouts are what happens when the forces of corporate greed meet the fire-intensifying effects of climate change.


At a press conference Thursday morning in Los Angeles, the governor railed against PG&E and its policy of shutting off power as a wildfire prevention plan.

“When it relates to PG&E, it’s about dog-eats-dog capitalism meeting climate change. It’s about corporate greed meeting climate change. It’s about decades of mismanagement,” Newsom said. The governor also criticized Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, the other two utilities currently responsible for blackouts in the state, for their inconsistent action on previously agreed-upon protocols around power shut-offs.

[See also: “California’s huge, humiliating power outages expose the vulnerabilities of PG&E’s power grid” in the Los Angeles Times.]

A few hours after the governor’s briefing, PG&E announced that one of its transmission lines had experienced problems Wednesday night around the area where the massive Kincade fire in Sonoma County broke out. Investigators don’t know whether the power lines caused the fire.

As of Thursday night, there were two major fires burning in the state: the Kincade fire in Sonoma County and the Tick fire near Santa Clarita in Southern California. A map of all the fires burning around California can be found here.

Here’s the latest on the Kincade fire:

    • The entire town of Geyserville and vineyards across Northern California wine country were forced to evacuate as the blaze, pushed by wind gusts topping 70 mph, burned out of control in a rural section of Sonoma County. As of Thursday night, the fire was at 5% containment and 49 structures had burned. Los Angeles Times
    • Sonoma County restaurateurs snapped into action to coordinate food relief efforts for evacuees. Sonoma Magazine

    And the Tick fire:

    • The wind-driven Tick fire in Santa Clarita Valley is burning homes and threatening neighborhoods. Los Angeles Times
    • All LAUSD schools in the San Fernando Valley will be closed Friday due to air quality and fire danger. Schools in Malibu will also be closed. Los Angeles Times
    • By air and ground, here’s what the Tick fire looks like as it burns through Canyon Country near Santa Clarita. Orange County Register

    Tracking the power outages and their aftermath:

    • This weekend’s planned power outages could be the largest yet in California, as utilities such as PG&E and Southern California Edison order wide blackouts to prevent more blazes — and more wildfire liability — amid heavy, hot winds. Los Angeles Times
    • PG&E may provide $5 million to help Californians with disabilities and serious medical conditions pay for for costs incurred during wildfire-prevention outages. San Francisco Chronicle

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



    Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson’s son received preferential treatment on his rent for years at an L.A. apartment building while his father helped the building’s executives win approval of a controversial high-rise, according to interviews and records reviewed by The Times. Los Angeles Times

    Was a New Balance ad about Kawhi Leonard’s homecoming to L.A. filmed in ... San Diego? Scenes from the commercial look suspiciously like the inside and outside of Viejas Arena at San Diego State, his alma mater. San Diego Union-Tribune

    A grandiose Bel-Air spec mansion (is there any other kind?) just sold for $94 million to an unknown buyer. Attributes of the “house” include three kitchens, five bars, a Louis Vuitton bowling alley, a 40-seat movie theater, a massage studio, fitness center, candy room, two wine cellars and the ineradicable sense that this would be a really, really bad place to be when the revolution starts. Los Angeles Times

    When is an Original Tommy’s burger not an original? When it’s one of these 67 look-alikes. Los Angeles Times

    The original Tommy's Chili Cheese Burger.
    (Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

    Wellness co-living: This self-described “purpose-driven living” compound houses 96 individuals, most of whom work in the $4.2-trillion wellness industry: fitness influencers, meditation teachers, nutritionists, cannabis entrepreneurs and reiki masters among them. Los Angeles Times

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    San Mateo County is under fire for its continued cooperation with ICE, even as neighboring counties in the Bay Area have pushed to keep the agency at arm’s length in their communities. Los Angeles Times


    Gov. Gavin Newsom’s reelection campaign has seen a significant boost since August. He probably won’t be on the ballot again until 2022. Sacramento Bee

    California’s tough-on-crime past haunts Kamala Harris: The senator’s work as a prosecutor during California’s lock-’em-up era has made it harder for her to sell her presidential candidacy to wary voters. Los Angeles Times


    The city of Clovis is mostly white and that’s no accident, according to a group suing the city over housing. The lawsuit alleges that the Fresno suburb has knowingly broken the law by not providing the opportunity for housing to be built for poor people. Fresno Bee


    Coachella Valley public schools will reopen Friday after days of closures due to a dump fire in Thermal that sent a foul-smelling plume of smoke and ash into the air. Desert Sun


    Want authentic Asian ingredients delivered? In Sacramento, there’s now an app for that. Sacramento Bee

    Here’s an interactive map of trick-or-treating hot spots around San Francisco, including a neighborhood costume parade and some clusters of stores that pass out candy. San Francisco Moms Blog

    We’d like to share a reader roundup of some of the best trick-or-treating neighborhoods around the state. Do you have a favorite street, or live in a neighborhood known for its decorations? Tell us about it. Photos are welcome.

    Sacramento’s downtown could double in size, as a new Major League Soccer team serves as a catalyst for other major development projects. Sacramento Bee

    A completely symbolic proclamation in support of the LGBTQ+ community was passed in a small San Joaquin Valley town, but not without some strong opposition. “I’m torn and I don’t deny it,” Porterville’s mayor said, before casting one of the two “no” votes. Porterville Recorder

    October is a perfect time to visit the giant sequoias’ namesake park, according to this guidebook author. Sequoia National Park boasts the world’s greatest concentration of the trees. Fresno Bee


    Los Angeles: sunny, 91. San Diego: sunny, 87. San Francisco: sunny, 82. San Jose: sunny, 89. Sacramento: sunny, 87. More weather is here.


    “There is something disturbing about this corner of America, a sinister suggestion of transience. There is a quality hostile to men in the very earth and air here. As if we were not meant to make our homes in this oddly enervating sunshine.”

    — — J.B. Priestley on California, 1937

    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.