Newsletter: Essential California: Santa Ana winds roar through Southern California, whipping fires on destructive path

A fast-moving, wind-driven wildfire swept into the city of Ventura early Tuesday, burning 50,000 acres, destroying homes and forcing more than 27,000 people to evacuate.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times )

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Dec. 6, and here’s what’s happening across California:


Fire, fire everywhere

A series of Santa Ana-wind-driven wildfires burned out of control in Southern California, destroying more than a hundred homes, forcing thousands to flee, and smothering the region with smoke, in what officials predicted would be a pitched battle through Thursday. In Ventura, flames drove deep into suburbia, consuming dozens of stucco and tile homes along tidy streets and cul-de-sacs. Propane tanks exploded and fan palms became ragged torches lofting fiery debris hundreds of yards. By morning, an estimated 150 structures were destroyed in scenes reminiscent of the deadly October firestorm that tore through Santa Rosa, and officials say the damage may be much greater. Los Angeles Times


Here’s what we know:

— The Thomas fire in Ventura County has burned more than 55,000 acres, destroyed at least 150 structures and forced 27,000 people to evacuate. Los Angeles Times

Some fire hydrants in Ventura didn’t work because of power outages or other problems, firefighters say. Los Angeles Times

— The Creek fire prompted evacuations in parts of Sylmar and Lake View Terrace. Los Angeles Times


— A fire that broke out in San Bernardino County on Tuesday afternoon burned three people and triggered mandatory evacuations, authorities said. Los Angeles Times

— Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti had a strong message for residents living near the fast-moving Creek fire: Be ready to go. “We expect this weather for the next five days, though today may be the most intense of days,” Garcetti said at a news conference Tuesday morning. Los Angeles Times

— Smoke from the Creek fire has caused poor air quality, prompting Los Angeles County officials to urge residents in neighboring communities to avoid going outdoors and to limit exercise. The unhealthy air quality has been declared in portions of the San Fernando Valley, Lake View Terrace, Sylmar, Malibu and Santa Monica. Los Angeles County Interim Health Officer Jeffrey Gunzenhauser urged residents living in those communities, especially children and the elderly, to be especially cautious. Los Angeles Times



What happened? L.A. asked for $3 million for community policing. The Department of Justice said no. Some fear it’s a sign of what’s ahead. Los Angeles Times

Go to class! Here’s how L.A. Unified could reduce absenteeism, if it listens to outside advisers. Los Angeles Times

Bye, bye, Ball: LiAngelo Ball leaving UCLA is the best news the Bruins could have gotten, writes Times columnist Bill Plaschke. Los Angeles Times



And the winner is...: Democratic labor activist Wendy Carrillo won a special election in Los Angeles on Tuesday to serve out the term of former Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, who was elected to Congress earlier this year. Tuesday’s vote was the last in a series of four special elections that have reshuffled the political landscape in a section of Los Angeles stretching from Silver Lake to Eagle Rock and East Los Angeles. Los Angeles Times

Dababneh fallout: The allegations of sexual misconduct against Assemblyman Matt Dababneh (D-Woodland Hills) reverberated in the California gubernatorial race on Tuesday, with one candidate calling on Dababneh to resign and another donating political contributions he received from the San Fernando Valley lawmaker. Los Angeles Times

More DACA support from the GOP: Orange County U.S. Rep. Mimi Walters on Tuesday joined Central Valley congressmen David Valadao and Jeff Denham in urging House Speaker Paul D. Ryan to address by the end of the year the legal status of people brought to the country illegally as children. Los Angeles Times



Interesting stats: Between 2010 and 2016, crime in Los Angeles County — including property and violent crime — rose by 5%, even as overall crime in the rest of the state fell by the same rate, according to a report released Tuesday. Los Angeles Times

Literacy lawsuit: Too many California children can’t read, and the state doesn’t have an adequate plan to fix the problem, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday. Los Angeles Times

Trying to stop California: “More than a dozen states banded together Monday to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to block a California law requiring any eggs sold there to come from hens that have space to stretch out in their cages.” Associated Press



On the horizon: A California lawmaker wants to put the state alongside China, France and the U.K. and have its legislature consider a ban on vehicles powered by fossil fuels.” Bloomberg


It’s back: The Art Deco-style daybed removed seven weeks ago from an important Hollywood public artwork in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct scandal has been returned to view. Los Angeles Times

Great idea! The Museum of Failure, a traveling pop-culture show presenting commercial products and services that rank as epic fails — beef lasagna frozen dinner from toothpaste maker Colgate, anyone? — has opened at downtown L.A.’s A+D Architecture and Design Museum. Los Angeles Times


Off the hook: USC defensive lineman Liam Jimmons won’t be charged after video captured the redshirt freshman knocking over a Washington State supporter after the Cougars upset the Trojans in Pullman, Wash., on Sept. 29. Los Angeles Times

Oooof: “The chief digital officer at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business is out of a job days after campus officials revealed that the school had failed to disclose a huge data breach of personal information that came to light only after a student made it known.” San Francisco Chronicle

Fire impact: The CBS reboot of “S.W.A.T” and HBO’s “Westworld” have shut down production in response to wildfires in Southern California. Variety

Hmmm: “Influencers are the new Vogue,” says Ilse Metchek, head of the California Fashion Association. NPR



Los Angeles area: sunny, 76, Wednesday; sunny, 77, Thursday. San Diego: sunny, 74, Wednesday and Thursday. San Francisco area: sunny, 62, Wednesday; partly cloudy, 65, Thursday. Sacramento: sunny, 60, Wednesday; sunny, 62, Thursday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Sasha Reynolds:


“In 1968, the Russian army suddenly occupied the Czech Republic. I had just completed nursing school and decided it was time to leave the country. While at the refugee camp, the officials asked me where I would like to live. I put my finger on Salinas. Why?? Because I love the Steinbeck book ‘East of Eden.’ Eventually I made it to California, where I live, and each time I visit Salinas I am grateful to be American.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (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 and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.