Newsletter: Essential California: Fire and fury in Thousand Oaks

A candlelight vigil in Thousand Oaks.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, Nov. 9, and here’s what’s happening across California:


To put it simply, Thursday was a terrible day in Thousand Oaks. It began with residents of this close-knit community waking to the news of a mass shooting in their backyard. The names of the 12 people who were shot and killed at the Borderline Bar & Grill slowly trickled out as vigils and prayer services were held throughout the community.

With these grief-filled gatherings came tales of heroism. There was the Ventura County sheriff’s deputy who ran into the bar and gave his life, and other stories of individuals putting themselves in harm’s way to save others. But everyone we spoke to still felt a sense of profound loss — particularly when it became clear that the bar was hosting a night aimed at attracting college students seeking some fun.


And then: As this town came to grips with what had happened, billowing clouds of smoke began to fill the skyline. Fast-moving wildfires sent Ventura County into a frenzy as neighborhoods were placed under mandatory evacuation and the 101 Freeway was shut down.

Mourners, though, were not deterred by this threat and still came out to honor the fallen. The Times’ Marisa Gerber was at the Thousand Oaks arts center last night, as a musician began playing his viola. He swayed softly from side to side as mourners shuffled into the theater carrying battery-powered candles. Many embraced one another in hugs; others cried softly. When several cellphones buzzed in unison, many in the crowd sighed, knowing it was a warning about the ominous orange smoke rising in the sky outside. “Emergency Alert,” the message read, “VC Sheriff — Fast moving brush fire in TO/Cam.”

The last 24 hours felt like an apocalypse.

That was the upshot of what many told my Los Angeles Times colleagues who were out grinding all day and night to bring you the news.


Here’s a roundup of our coverage of this horrific day:

— Here’s what played out Wednesday night when the 28-year-old gunman opened fire, killing a dozen people inside the Borderline Bar & Grill. Los Angeles Times

— After the shooting, a picture emerged of the gunman as a troubled veteran of the Marines who was known to authorities. Los Angeles Times

— Mental health experts declined to commit Long after a separate April disturbance. Los Angeles Times


Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus was among the first law enforcement officers to arrive at the bar shortly after 11:20 p.m. He gave his life and is being remembered as a hero. Los Angeles Times

— These are the stories of the victims. Los Angeles Times

— The gun used had an extended magazine for ammunition, authorities said. California lawmakers and voters have sought to ban such magazines. Los Angeles Times

— Here’s how to donate blood and support victims of the Thousand Oaks shooting. Los Angeles Times


— Then there were the fires, Hill and Woolsey, which threatened several Ventura County communities and led to highway closures. Los Angeles Times

A fire up north

In what officials described as “mass devastation,” at least 1,000 structures were lost when a fire swept through Paradise in Northern California. The Butte County fire exploded from 10 acres to more than 10,000 in a matter of hours, taking direct aim at the town, which is a popular retirement community. By Thursday evening, it had charred 20,000 acres and left 15,000 structures under threat. Los Angeles Times

Plus: “It’s pure chaos.” Scenes from the Camp fire. Los Angeles Times


— Traffic gridlock made getting to evacuation centers difficult. Paradise Post

— Officials did not send an Amber Alert-style warning as the blaze hit Paradise. San Francisco Chronicle

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A massive plume of smoke from the Camp fire spreads over the Sacramento Valley as seen from Chico.
(David Little / Associated Press)


Big news: A federal appeals court won’t immediately let President Trump end DACA, the Obama-era program shielding young immigrants from deportation. Associated Press

Plus: Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra hailed this ruling as a “tremendous victory” for the Dreamers. Los Angeles Times

The bigger picture: Two major immigration issues are heading toward court battles as the 9th Circuit blocks President Trump from ending the Obama-era protection for Dreamers and the president prepares to issue an order sharply restricting asylum. Los Angeles Times



Remember the midterms? Democrats in two House races that remain too close to call in Orange County have gained substantial ground since the election on Tuesday, but tens of thousands of ballots have yet to be counted in each contest. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Republicans losing the House means Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has an easier path to becoming his party’s leader in the lower chamber, even if it’s not the speakership he has long coveted. Los Angeles Times

In S.F.: Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom on Thursday held his first press conference since his election, notably at a homeless shelter in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. He spent much of the time criticizing gun rights advocates in the aftermath of the Thousand Oaks shooting. Los Angeles Times


Eesh: Rep. Linda Sanchez of California, whose husband has been indicted on criminal charges in Connecticut, pulled her name from consideration for a top House leadership post Thursday. Los Angeles Times


More charges: A man suspected of killing at least four people during a spate of savage attacks on Los Angeles County’s vulnerable homeless community earlier this year was charged with four additional counts of attempted murder. Los Angeles Times



Water wars: Under pressure from Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration, state regulators once again postponed a vote on a contentious plan to force San Francisco and several big San Joaquin Valley irrigation districts to give up some of their water supplies for environmental protection. Los Angeles Times


Hollywoodland: Zoe Kravitz loves her “Fantastic Beasts” role but is fed up with Hollywood tokenism. Los Angeles Times

Mickey woo! Walt Disney Co. posted strong fourth-quarter earnings, again bolstered by its powerful film studio business. Los Angeles Times


Plus: The breakup of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox is sparking the biggest sports media auction in years. Fox’s 22 regional sports networks, including Prime Ticket and Fox Sports West in Los Angeles, are up for grabs because the federal government is refusing to allow the Walt Disney Co. to own the channels due to antitrust concerns. Los Angeles Times

Good Dodgers news: Corey Seager is on target to return in time for spring training. Los Angeles Times

But: Columnist Bill Plaschke says the Dodgers’ apparent payroll plan sends a bad message to fans. Los Angeles Times

The new guy: The Giants’ new boss, Farhan Zaidi, formerly of the Dodgers, gets down to business at the GM meetings. San Francisco Chronicle


On the Eastside: A new mural for Boyle Heights commemorates the past and comments on the gentrification of today. L.A. Taco


Los Angeles area: cloudy, 78, Friday; sunny, 77, Saturday. San Diego: sunny, 79, Friday; sunny, 76, Saturday. San Francisco area: sunny, 69, Friday; sunny, 68, Saturday. San Jose: sunny, 69, Friday; sunny, 68, Saturday. Sacramento: sunny, 71, Friday and Saturday. More weather is here.



Today’s California memory comes from Gerald Flavin:

“My ancestors arrived from Mexico in the 1840s, so my family has seen major changes. In the 1940s, my memory is of Route 66. I think of the family driving through the orange and lemon groves in bloom with the perfumed air. Looking up at the San Gabriel Mountains covered in winter snow, while we enjoyed the sunshine. You could stop at one of the orange juice stands and have a glass for 10 cents. My relative had a lemon grove in Glendora, and I remember swimming in the cold, cold waters of the San Gabriel River in Duarte.”

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.