Newsletter: Essential California: How the Thomas fire became such a monster


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Dec. 12, and here’s what’s happening across California:


How the Thomas fire became such a monster


Flames as tall as a high-rise galloping up and down mountainsides. Coastal communities shrouded in smoke. Armies of firefighters on the defensive with little hope of corralling a wildfire that refuses to quit. The scene from this month’s Thomas fire could just as easily be taken from the 2007 Zaca fire and decades before that, the 1932 Matilija fire. In a sculpted land of jagged ridges and steep canyons, where hikers can find remoteness an hour’s drive from some of California’s priciest real estate, many of the state’s biggest wildfires have burned. In the course of a week, the Thomas exploded into the fifth-biggest wildfire in the state’s modern record. At more than 230,000 acres Monday, it ranked just behind the No. 4 Zaca and above the No. 6 Matilija. The very qualities that make the Los Padres wilderness a dramatic backdrop to Santa Barbara also make it a firefighters’ nightmare. Los Angeles Times

Here’s what we know about the fires sweeping Southern California:

-- The Thomas fire has left behind a barren “moonscape” as it continues to threaten Montecito and Carpinteria. Los Angeles Times

-- The residents of these coastal enclaves, which are a defining feature of California’s landscape, are reeling from a sense of profound anxiety as the fires continue to threaten their homes. Los Angeles Times

-- While residents made sense of the devastation, fire crews from San Diego to Los Angeles gained the upper hand over the weekend on a series of wildfires fed during the last week by powerful Santa Ana winds. Los Angeles Times

About those gang injunctions


Thousands of Angelenos whose movements, clothing and even relationships were tightly restricted under gang injunctions were released from those court orders this year, marking a dramatic reduction in the use of a crime-fighting tool once hailed as an innovative answer to the city’s violent street gangs. The purge of names comes amid growing debate about whether the injunctions still make sense in an era of declining crime and gang activity. Los Angeles Times


Golden globes nominees: As Hollywood struggles with inclusion and sexism, the Golden Globes nominees are being parsed with Oscar-like intensity. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Here are all the nominees for the 75th Golden Globe Awards. Los Angeles Times

On skid row: A ghostly chant of “Bill of Rights, Bill of Rights” drifted out of a sidewalk tent as the United Nations monitor on extreme poverty walked the streets of skid row as part of a national tour investigating human rights conditions for the poorest U.S. citizens. Los Angeles Times

Off the air: Steve Edwards, the anchor of Fox 11’s “Good Day L.A.” and a fixture in local television and radio for more than three decades, “is no longer employed” at the station, according to a Fox spokesperson. Los Angeles Times

What’s ahead for the Dodgers: As the Yankees introduce their latest acquisition, mega-slugger Giancarlo Stanton, the Dodgers are preparing for a winter of financial restraint. Los Angeles Times


Mayor passes: San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, the city’s first Asian American mayor, died early Tuesday at 65. No cause of death was immediately given. Under Lee, San Francisco saw a crop of new high-rise buildings, and the city gained enhanced status as the global capital of the tech industry. Los Angeles Times

She’s back in the news: Former Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner and Trump fundraiser Jamie McCourt was sworn in as the U.S. ambassador to France and Monaco at the White House on Monday. Los Angeles Times

Calculating the tab: State finance officials said Monday it would cost about $2.67 million for a special election on the recall of state Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), but only $931,000 to put his potential recall on the regular June primary ballot, which will also feature races for governor and congressional seats. Los Angeles Times

Time to act? “California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and education leaders are urging the University of California to address allegations of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct by University of California Regent and radio mogul Norman Pattiz, nearly a year after several people said Pattiz made them uncomfortable in the workplace.” The Huffington Post

In Newport Beach: The Newport Beach City Council will select its next mayor and mayor pro tem Tuesday. As in many other cities around Orange County, Newport Beach voters do not directly elect their mayor. Council members choose the mayor and mayor pro tem from among themselves for the one-year, largely ceremonial posts. The Daily Pilot


#MeToo in the courts: California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said Monday that she has had her own #MeToo moments during her legal career, being addressed as “sugar and honey and dear” and one of the “girls.” Los Angeles Times

In Artesia: A man who slashed Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies with a knife was shot and killed Sunday in Artesia, the department said. Los Angeles Times

Ugly stuff: A 43-year-old woman was arrested Saturday on suspicion of looting a home in San Diego County by deputies patrolling areas affected by the Lilac fire, authorities said Sunday. Los Angeles Times

Caught on video: Officials say a woman was arrested after trying to smoke on a Southwest flight from Portland to Sacramento, then shouting she was going to kill everyone on the plane. Associated Press


Wow! “Since work on the [Los Angeles subway] extension began in 2014, fossilized remains have routinely turned up from creatures that roamed the grasslands and forests that covered the region during the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago.” Associated Press


Batali is out: Celebrity chef Mario Batali is stepping away from the TV show “The Chew” and the day-to-day operations of his restaurant empire after a report detailed sexual misconduct allegations from multiple women spanning at least two decades. Los Angeles Times

Filmmaker dies: Bruce Brown turned surfing into a cultural phenomenon with the film “The Endless Summer.” Los Angeles Times

Major acquisition: Apple has purchased the music-recognition app Shazam. Los Angeles Times

And the tax credits go to ...: “Ridley Scott’s new series ‘Strange Angel,’ the fourth season of Dwayne Johnson’s ‘Ballers,’ and nine other TV projects have been selected for a total of $69 million in California production tax credits.” Variety

Has a very shiny nose: An ivy hedge trimmed to resemble a giant poodle in North Hills doubles as a reindeer this time of year. Los Angeles Daily News


Los Angeles area: Sunny, 82, Tuesday. Sunny, 80, Wednesday. San Diego: Sunny, 77, Tuesday. Sunny, 75, Wednesday. San Francisco area: Sunny, 64, Tuesday. Partly cloudy, 61, Wednesday. Sacramento: Partly cloudy, 62, Tuesday and Wednesday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes form Rob Leonard:

“My Michigan-born-and-bred parents brought their family to live in California 50 years ago this month. I grew up in the Bay Area, and at 10 years old discovered the perfect climate and car culture of Southern California on a family vacation to Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Wild Country Safari. That trip sealed my destiny. Upon turning 18, I moved to Los Angeles to live out my fantasy of driving classic cars year-round. Ever since, I have been doing just that for 35 years. Count me among the lucky few who truly live the California dream.”

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.