Newsletter: As more fires ignite, a small measure of relief

Billy MacFarlane uses a garden hose to douse embers on his family’s ranch
Billy MacFarlane uses a garden hose to douse embers on his family’s ranch on Tierra Rejada Road in Simi Valley as the Easy fire burns Wednesday.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, Oct. 31, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

California is still burning. But even as more fires ignited Wednesday, some areas saw a small measure of relief.

Firefighters finally began to get a handle on the massive Kincade fire in Sonoma County after days of chaos, and the majority of evacuation orders were lifted for the Getty fire in Los Angeles. PG&E — which has quickly become the most cursed name in the state — began the process of restoring power to most areas.

But the intense wind conditions also brought new blazes on Wednesday. The fires that broke out across Southern California sent thousands of people fleeing, closed major freeways and threatened the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. As the day wore on and the winds howled, more than a dozen other smaller fires erupted in communities including Riverside, Santa Clarita, Brea, Whittier, Fullerton, Lancaster, Calabasas, Long Beach, Nuevo and Jurupa Valley.

Here’s a look at where things stand, and what’s to come:

Southern California fire watch:

The latest on the Kincade fire:

  • Six days after the Kincade Fire ignited, it appeared that the worst was over on Wednesday as many evacuees returned home. San Francisco Chronicle
  • Sonoma County’s gamble on mega-evacuations left many residents unhappy. Was all the upheaval necessary? The death toll from the Tubbs and Camp fires in years past left communities like Paradise and Santa Rosa stunned and exposed major weaknesses in emergency evacuation systems. This year, Sonoma County officials didn’t take any chances and issued an unprecedented mandatory evacuation order. No deaths have been reported from the Kincade fire, but many residents questioned whether officials overcorrected, pulling far too many people into the evacuation zone. Los Angeles Times
  • A Sonoma County mom gave birth in a Napa hotel after being evacuated from her home. San Francisco Chronicle


  • Cell service outages could mean fire alerts don’t go through: Without cell service, signing up for emergency wildfire evacuation notices or getting backup chargers to keep phones going during a power outage is useless. San Francisco Chronicle
  • California’s blackouts could make fighting climate change even harder. The state’s plans for slashing climate emissions depend on a stable electric grid. Los Angeles Times

What’s next:

  • Extreme red flag wind conditions are expected to last through early Thursday evening in Southern California. Los Angeles Times
  • In Sonoma County, a freeze advisory was in place for early Thursday morning, putting residents who still don’t have power at risk. Santa Rosa Press-Democrat

The Times is offering fire coverage for free. Please consider a subscription to support our journalism.


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


Long Beach native Snoop Dogg will serve as emcee for the reopening of Metro’s A Line (formerly the Blue Line). Long Beach Post

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said that errors committed by the sheriff’s department and coroner’s office may have played a significant role in the decision not to criminally charge Ed Buck in the death of a man who overdosed in Buck’s West Hollywood home in 2017. Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles International Airport officials apologized late Tuesday night for an “unacceptable level of service” after travelers using the new Uber, Lyft and taxi pickup system faced gridlock, packed shuttle buses and long wait times for rides. Los Angeles Times

Travelers wait for rides at LAX
The Sahota Family, center, waits at the new LAX pickup lot on Tuesday.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

More L.A. homes could be rented out on Airbnb. Tenant activists aren’t happy. Los Angeles Times

Sqirl’s Jessica Koslow talks about the new Santa Monica restaurant she’s opening with Mexican chef Gabriela Cámara. Healthyish


Immigrant advocates say law enforcement agencies in the state are still helping federal immigration agents with deportations, nearly two years after California’s “sanctuary state” rule took effect. Capital Public Radio

Several Central Valley congressional representatives have helped introduce a bipartisan bill geared toward providing a path to legal status for more than 250,000 undocumented California farmworkers. Fresno Bee



The AB 5 battle continues: Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have launched a $90-million fight against the new California labor law. The three Silicon Valley companies unveiled a ballot measure to exclude many of those they pay for work from being considered benefits-earning employees. They intend to qualify it for next November’s statewide ballot. Los Angeles Times

Amid a torrent of speculation, Alex Padilla said he’s not running for Katie Hill’s congressional seat. Padilla currently serves as California secretary of state. Los Angeles Daily News

Inmates at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin have started a hunger strike and work stoppage over alleged unsanitary conditions inside the jail, including insects and vermin on their food. Mercury News


The Orange County district attorney’s office has charged five UC Irvine fraternity brothers in connection with the alcohol poisoning death of an underage fraternity member in January. Los Angeles Times

A former surfing executive has been sentenced to two months in prison in the college admissions scandal. He paid $250,000 to guarantee his son’s admission to USC through fraud and bribery. Los Angeles Times



Twenty-five years ago, the anti-immigrant Proposition 187 was passed by Californians at the ballot box. The initiative, which was ultimately overturned by the courts, sought to punish undocumented immigrants by denying them certain services, including access to public healthcare and education. In a new podcast, Gustavo Arellano traces the proposition from its birth in Orange County to its peak on election day and its ultimate failure. Los Angeles Times

Twitter just banned all political ads, in sharp contrast to Facebook. Los Angeles Times

Alhambra high schools have added ramen and pho to their lunch menus to cater to their diverse student base. Pasadena Star-News

This is where Orange County chef Shawn Pham goes for classic Vietnamese drinking food in Little Saigon. Los Angeles Times

The owner of Fresno FC said the pro soccer club is “almost certain” to relocate without its own stadium. Fresno Bee


The taffy chews from Dewar’s Candy Shop in Bakersfield receive high praise from a food editor. (I enthusiastically co-sign this recommendation, and remain forever grateful to Central Valley journalist Emma Gallegos for introducing me to Dewar’s.) Bon Appetit


Los Angeles: sunny, 80. San Diego: sunny, 76. San Francisco: sunny, 71. San Jose: sunny, 75. Sacramento: sunny, 73. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Andree Joyce Gordon:

“In 1961, I was a 5-year-old in Bel-Air during what was then the worst fire in Los Angeles history. Our house was among the 484 homes lost. As the school bus drove by our house, I could see my mom in the doorway. Her station wagon open and filled with everything she could stuff in and a fireman talking with her. She was asking for just a little more time to look for our dog and cats. As we were driven down the mountain (Bel-Air), I saw many other homes starting to catch fire. Neighbor upon neighbor were on top of their roofs with hoses. Screens and pieces of wood flying through the air. Fireman after fireman with ash covering their faces. I didn’t see my mom or dad till late that night after going to a friend’s house far away from the flames. The smell of fire never leaves you. Years later, I still bristle if I’m walking a dog outside and smell it. I’ve been known to run back to make sure it’s not my house. California, oh California, how I love her and how I fear for her.”

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.