Newsletter: Essential California: The death toll grows as wildfires rage

The Carr fire swept through and destroyed property and structures in Shasta, Calif.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, July 30, and here’s what’s happening across California:


The grim losses of human life in California’s brush fires came into focus Sunday, as the death toll from the Redding fire rose to six and a second firefighter was killed battling the fire near Yosemite. The loss of life underscored the devastation of fires that are burning from Riverside County to the Oregon border. Los Angeles Times

-- She desperately covered her two great-grandchildren in a wet blanket as the fire swept into their home. All three died. Los Angeles Times

-- With so many fires burning across California, resources are being stretched thin. Firefighters are coming from as far away as Florida. Los Angeles Times

-- Is the Redding fire a terrifying look into the future? Sacramento Bee


Mass evictions in Long Beach

Driven by a white-hot real estate market, investors are snatching up older apartment buildings and clearing out tenants to renovate units and re-market them at sometimes double the rent. Los Angeles Times

-- The incredible vulnerability of being a tenant in L.A. Curbed Los Angeles

Too poor to leave

Guatemalan native Claudia Calderon is trying to figure out a way to leave the United States and return to Guatemala with her two sons so they can be reunited with her husband. Many parents who were separated from their children at the border under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy — the majority of whom, like Calderon, are from Central America — hope to make their case in court for why they should be allowed to stay in the U.S. Calderon has found herself pleading with lawyers to help her leave. Los Angeles Times

-- With more than 1,800 migrant families now reunified under a court-ordered deadline, the question turns to how fast immigration authorities can deport those with final orders of removal. It looks increasingly likely those families will remain in limbo, at least for now. Los Angeles Times

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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s passenger rail system stretches deep into the corners of Los Angeles County, drawing commuters to downtown from Long Beach, Azusa, North Hollywood and Santa Monica. But only a handful of the Metro system’s 93 stations intersect with a second line, a design that often forces riders to travel miles out of the way to change trains. A rail extension Metro is planning through Hollywood, Beverly Grove and West Hollywood would address that problem. But when will it happen? Los Angeles Times

-- Does downtown L.A. really need a streetcar? Maybe just better bus service? Curbed Los Angeles

The $1-million challenge: The Urban Land Institute is offering Los Angeles officials help finding sites for homeless shelters and has enlisted a group of architects and landscape architects to design them. Los Angeles Times

Death during a training exercise: Lawyers for the Los Angeles Fire Department are at odds with workplace safety regulators over their investigation into the death of a firefighter last year, the first fatality during a department training exercise since 1985. Los Angeles Times

Whoa! On a summit above Beverly Hills, a sweeping 157-acre property touted as the city’s finest undeveloped parcel is hitting the market with L.A.’s first-ever 10-figure asking price: $1 billion. Los Angeles Times


“Everyone is vulnerable”: The cycle of senseless, random violence in Fresno. Fresno Bee

Border incident: Border Patrol agents shot a 19-year-old man who is suspected of hitting an agent with a rock and then stealing his ATV, prompting a brief chase early Sunday in the Tijuana River Valley north of the U.S. border with Mexico. San Diego Union-Tribune

Brutal killer: The death of a California Aryan Brotherhood leader closes a chapter. Mercury News


Steve Lopez weighs in: If Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is serious about running for president, doesn’t he need to get his own house in order? Los Angeles Times

Train talk: When California voters approved construction of a bullet train in 2008, they had a legal promise that passengers would be able to speed from Los Angeles to San Francisco in two hours and 40 minutes. But over the next decade, the state rail authority made a series of political and financial compromises that slowed speeds on long stretches of the track. Los Angeles Times

Eye-opening: California’s greatest contradiction is almost Dickensian: In a state often cited as home to scores of billionaires, almost 4 in every 10 residents are living at or near the poverty line. Los Angeles Times

Opinion: How Rep. Devin Nunes became the man Washington loves to hate. Wall Street Journal


Paying tribute: To mark what would have been Jonathan Gold’s 58th birthday, several buildings and monuments around Los Angeles were “lit up gold” Saturday night in honor of the late restaurant critic. Los Angeles Times

Goodbye, hello: Kenya Barris, the creator of “Black-ish,” is saying goodbye-ish to his home at ABC Studios, with speculation that he is the next high-profile TV producer making the jump to Netflix. Is this another big blow to network TV? Los Angeles Times

Perspective: “I grew up a cerebral, effeminate child in a farm town in Northern California. You may assume when I say ‘Northern California,’ I mean the vineyard and lesbian-sous-chef-laden lands of the Napa Valley. I do not. I am from the Sacramento Valley.” — California writer Guy Branum on the “gay voice.” New York Times

Who knew? The story of some rare books found in the Sierra and their link to an ex-president. Sacramento Bee

Know the name …: Since S. Preston started posting his artwork several years ago on social media — specifically a collection of 30 major league ballparks that could be turned into a modern-day Rorschach sports knowledge test — decision-makers have taken notice. Los Angeles Times

… now play the game: Can you guess the ballparks? Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles area: Mostly sunny, 86, Monday. Sunny, 86, Tuesday. San Diego: Mostly sunny, 81, Monday. Partly cloudy, 80, Tuesday. San Francisco area: Partly cloudy, 64, Monday and Tuesday. San Jose: Sunny, 82, Monday. Sunny, 81, Tuesday. Sacramento: Sunny, 97, Monday. Sunny, 96, Tuesday. More weather is here.


This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California:

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (July 30, 1947), Treasurer John Chiang (July 31, 1962), Angels owner Arte Moreno (Aug. 1, 1946), state Sen. Toni Atkins (Aug. 1, 1962), L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin (Aug. 1, 1963) and rapper Coolio (Aug. 1, 1963).

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.