Newsletter: Essential California: A state of emergencies

In Malibu, an evacuated resident of Los Trancas Canyon Road, center, asks fleeing motorists and residents if anyone had seen her husband.
(Stuart W. Palley / For The Times)

Welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Nov. 10:


This newsletter is coming to you from Taft High School, which was transformed into an evacuation center for people displaced by the fires engulfing Los Angeles and Ventura counties. People streamed in overnight and throughout the morning, and many who were turned away set up shop in parking lots throughout the Valley — their cars filled with pets and their personal possessions.

Journalists never want to be at the center of the story, but consider for just a moment this email we got from The Times’ Soumya Karlamangla. Her story should show you that we reporters are part of your community. We’re from where you are from and worry about the same things you worry about:


“As a journalist, I’ve stayed in nice hotels, crappy hotels and even in friends’ spare rooms to cover disasters. But reporting on the shooting in Thousand Oaks offered a new option: my parents’ house. They live in Thousand Oaks, in the same house I grew up in. I told my colleagues who were in the field that they should crash too, because, why not?

“So my friend Saba Hamedy, who works at the Huffington Post, came over for dinner after we covered the same vigil. Then my coworker Jaclyn Cosgrove showed up to stay with us because there weren’t any available hotel rooms. Yes, there was a fire visible from our house. And yes, it was very windy, and yes, it felt a little like hell was raining down on us, but we’d never been evacuated before. It seemed unlikely.

“Well. At 11:51 pm, we got a mandatory evacuation order. I woke up Jaclyn, who packed up her stuff and drove toward the fire to report. (Welcome to the mind of a journalist.) I could see not just orange smoke but actual flames now, coming over the ridge line toward our house. The image was arresting. We packed up our stuff. Neighbors were opening their garage doors and driving away too. Many said they weren’t sure where they would go. Cooper, our dog, picked up on the anxious vibes and tried to hide in a corner. But we grabbed him and headed out. Our three cars, in a procession. The roads were crowded with people evacuating, and there was so much smoke in the air driving down the 101 Freeway, I started coughing. But eventually we made it safely to my apartment in Los Feliz, where we all bunked for the night. Me, my parents and the dog.”

Read more from Soumya about covering two overlapping tragedies in her hometown here. The piece was edited by Thousand Oaks resident Steve Clow, who was evacuated as well. Los Angeles Times


Devastation in Paradise

A fast-moving wildfire ravaged Paradise, a Northern California community of 27,000 people. Officials said at least nine people died and more than 6,700 homes and commercial buildings were lost — making it the most destructive fire to property in state history. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Trapped by flames, some Camp Fire evacuees took refuge in a stream. San Francisco Chronicle

One woman’s story: Beverly Meintsma is 73 years old. She has been married for more than 50 years. Two months ago, she fell, broke her leg and needed surgery. Before she left her home in Paradise for a rehab center in Chico, she placed her wedding ring in her jewelry box for safekeeping. On Thursday, her longtime home burned to the ground in the voracious, fast-moving Camp Fire, which has already claimed an unknown number of lives and 70,000 acres and counting. Meinstma will be released from Chico Creek Rehabilitation Center in 30 days. She has no place to go, nothing left. Los Angeles Times

The walls of a scorched antique shop stand on Skyway after a wildfire burned through Paradise, Calif., on Friday.
(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

The fires in Southern California

After forcing evacuations in Malibu, Topanga Canyon and hillside communities near the water, the Woolsey fire plowed eastward into the San Fernando Valley community of West Hills, posing new dangers to residents, homes and weary firefighters. The fire barreled into Malibu on Friday afternoon with destructive force, burning dozens of hillside homes in its march to the Pacific Ocean and more than doubling in size from 14,000 acres to 35,000 acres in the span of several hours. The fire destroyed houses in Oak Park, Thousand Oaks, Bell Canyon and other Ventura County communities and showed no signs of slowing as evacuation orders and anxiety continued to spread. Los Angeles Times

Woosley fire
The Woolsey fire burns near homes in West Hills on Friday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Thousand Oaks reels from twin tragedies: a mass shooting and a destructive wildfire. Los Angeles Times

Plus: The principal of Taft High School had to evacuate his family before he could get the school prepared for evacuees. Los Angeles Times

In Malibu: When the flames met the sea. Los Angeles Times

And: Kim Kardashian and Alyssa Milano were some of the stars forced out as the Woolsey fire evacuations affected nearly 90,000 homes. Los Angeles Times

Fire near the zoo: A small fire in Griffith Park led to the evacuation of some of the Los Angeles Zoo’s animals Friday morning. Los Angeles Times

More about the Thousand Oaks shooting

A cruel tragedy: In Thousand Oaks, one Marine shoots another — who helped veterans adjust to coming home. Los Angeles Times

“I hope people call me insane”: The gunman posted to social media as he opened fire at Thousand Oaks bar. Los Angeles Times


Plus: A high school track coach of the Thousand Oaks gunman told The Times that he assaulted her 10 years ago. Los Angeles Times

From the White House: President Trump described the suspect in the Thousand Oaks massacre as a “very sick guy” and suggested without evidence not only that he had post-traumatic stress disorder but also that combat veterans generally return with mental health issues.. Los Angeles Times


Counting the votes: California’s not goofy, it’s really big. That’s why counting the votes takes so long. Los Angeles Times

Crazy story: A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy and a team of armed accomplices disguised as deputies stole hundreds of pounds of marijuana and safes filled with cash from a pot warehouse in a brazen, middle-of-the-night heist, according to court records. Los Angeles Times

Getting ready: Moving swiftly to name the highest-ranking member of his nascent administration, Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom tapped Ann O’Leary, a longtime policy advisor to Hillary Clinton, to serve as his chief of staff and a leader of the transition team this fall. Los Angeles Times

Pleading not guilty: A Southern California man pleaded not guilty on Friday to the murder of a gay University of Pennsylvania student from Orange County in a hate crime. Los Angeles Times

Deadly shooting: A man who was wanted for questioning in seven Antelope Valley homicides and was suspected in an eighth was killed by authorities Thursday morning when he pulled out a weapon during his arrest, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said. Los Angeles Times

Wow! Elon Musk first envisioned building a double-decker 405 before he got to his hyperloop idea. Curbed LA

Prop. 12 follow-up: What L.A. chefs think about California’s new cage requirements for livestock. Eater LA

Freeing up funds: Sacramento declares a homeless shelter crisis. Sacramento Bee

Get the Essential California newsletter »


1. Results from the midterm elections. Los Angeles Times

2. Thousand Oaks shooting leaves 13 people dead, including gunman, and 18 injured. Los Angeles Times

3. More people left California in 2017 than moved here. Who they are and where they went. Sacramento Bee

4. The Lakers’ Magic Johnson has bigger problems than Luke Walton. Los Angeles Times

5. Here’s a look at the 11 propositions California voters weighed on Nov. 6. Los Angeles Times


On campus: Adapting to different dynamics has been a challenge for USC freshman quarterback JT Daniels. Los Angeles Times

Troubling story: At Tesla’s factory, “injured employees have been systematically sent back to the production line to work through their pain with no modifications, according to former clinic employees, Tesla factory workers and medical records. Some could barely walk. The on-site medical clinic serving some 10,000 employees at Tesla Inc.’s California assembly plant has failed to properly care for seriously hurt workers, an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has found.” Reveal

Don’t forget about the caravan: For Mexico too, the migrant caravan winding through that country represents a major challenge and dilemma. Los Angeles Times

Podcast: On the beat with The Times’ USC and UCLA reporters. Los Angeles Times

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.