Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: Fires erupt across California

Imagery from the WorldView-3 satellite shows the western edge of the Kincade fire as it burns close to Geyserville.

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Oct. 26.

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

Top Stories

Fires and power outages. Fueled by violent winds from the northeast, fires erupted on dry hills across California, tearing through oaks and vineyards in Sonoma County and burning homes hundreds of miles away in subdivisions near Santa Clarita.

Fanned by strong Santa Ana winds, the Tick fire continued its destructive path through Santa Clarita on Friday, jumping the 14 Freeway and sending residents fleeing. Video showed motorists driving through walls of flames on the 14 Freeway in a prelude to a hellish morning commute.
As Northern California braced for a weekend of intense winds, firefighters struggled Friday against the Kincade wildfire burning across Sonoma County wine country, critical fire danger and mass power outages.

Here are satellite photos of the Kincade fire threatening California’s vineyards.

Did PG&E power lines cause the destructive Kincade fire? The company said Thursday that transmission lines experienced problems Wednesday night around the area where the fire broke out.

Here are maps of all the fires currently burning in California, the PG&E power outages and the Southern California Edison power outages.

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


Streaming nightmare. Distribber started out a decade ago as a promising solution for do-it-yourself filmmakers working outside the traditional Hollywood system. But the now-shuttered company may owe hundreds of filmmakers money, with potentially millions of dollars in unpaid royalties and fee refunds at stake.

Family ties. Kamala Harris rarely speaks about her Indian heritage — but that doesn’t mean it didn’t influence her journey. Here’s a look at the surprising relationship that launched Harris’ path to politics from 8,290 miles away.

Fast food diet. Southern California sea gulls love In-N-Out and McDonald’s. But their restaurant habits may be changing the ecology of their Channel Islands home in unexpected ways.

“Very pleased.” Many of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s highest-profile initiatives to speed housing production, boost the state’s authority over development decisions and increase private funding for affordable housing have stalled or failed. Yet he said so far he’s been “very pleased,” with the progress on tackling the housing crisis.

Lookalikes. The Original Tommy’s World Famous Hamburgers has been turning out hamburgers smothered in greasy beef chili since 1946. But even as the Monrovia chain has expanded to 33 locations in California and Nevada, burger stands that appear to be aping it in both style and substance have proliferated even faster.

Clippers vs. Warriors. Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers spoiled the Golden State Warriors’ debut in their new billion-dollar Mission Bay arena with a 141-122 rout in San Francisco Thursday.

Vertical farming. After vertical agriculture company Plenty launched in South San Francisco this summer, the company announced Friday that it has inked a deal to open a second vertical farm, this time in Compton.

Gig worker fears. Freelancers spoke to columnist Michael Hiltzik of their fears that AB 5, the state’s new gig worker law, will discourage more employers from out of state from hiring Californians to avoid paperwork and legal liabilities.

1. Here’s a map of all the fires currently burning in California. Los Angeles Times

2. This is where Southern California Edison has turned off power to customers. Los Angeles Times

3. What’s a wine cave? The five best underground experiences on the Central Coast. San Luis Obispo Tribune

4. By air and ground, here’s what the Tick fire looks like as it burns through Canyon Country. The Orange County Register

5. Clear Lake was once a resort destination in California. When its water quality deteriorated, tourism plunged. Capital & Main


ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

A taste of Oklahoma: “Braum’s is the best burger joint. You’ll wish you were here.” Los Angeles Times

For my incarcerated clients, there is no winning. “I like to think of myself as a legal problem-solver for incarcerated people. Identifying the problems to solve is often the hardest part.” The Marshall Project

The rhythms of American life changed in the 2010s. How everything from TV to Trump to Instagram messed with your head just enough that time feels like it melted. Buzzfeed

Looking ahead

Saturday Recommendation: The smoked brisket at Slab in Los Angeles

Brisket at Slab BBQ, a small barbecue restaurant in the Beverly Grove area.
(Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times)

This week, restaurant critic Bill Addison ventured to Slab Barbecue, the brick-and-mortar outpost of Instagram-famous pit master Burt Bakman. He found some very, very good smoked brisket. Here’s what he had to say:


“A staffer behind the counter at Slab Barbecue plunks down a mass wrapped in thick, crinkled butcher paper. He unwraps the package, his gloves now slick with grease, and lifts out a blackened lobe of brisket. Then, knife in hand, he poses a universal question of brisket — certainly one spoken by barbecue practitioners all over the country who’ve been gripped by the wonders of Texas-style meats. He asks: “Do you want fatty or lean?”

A little of each, please. From the brisket’s point (also known as the deckle) he carves a couple of slices downright glistening with rendered fat; from the leaner flat he saws off slivers with tighter crosshatch grains, though the brisket’s fat cap has been kept intact so the edges stay glossy. Coarse black pepper coats the smirched bark; a thin garnet ring loops just underneath the surface. There’s a trace of vinegar that comes from prepared yellow mustard slathered on before cooking. The textures, particularly on the fatty pieces, jump from creamy to nubbly, crunchy to melting.” [Read the full review.]

Slab Barbecue is located at 8136 W. 3rd St. in Los Angeles. (310) 855-7184.

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. (And a giant thanks to the legendary Diya Chacko for all her help on the Saturday edition.)