Essential California Week in Review: With Hemet fire, storm could help or hurt


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Sept. 10.

Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week

Fairview fire conditions were rapidly changing with Tropical Storm Kay. The sky surrounding the nearly 30,000-acre wildfire near Hemet had become a steel gray by early afternoon, making it difficult to distinguish the smoke from incoming storm clouds. It was still not clear Friday whether Kay would further intensify the Fairview fire — with possible lightning strikes, strong winds and the added danger of flooding — or bring enough moisture to quell the flames.

The Mosquito fire continued to rage west of Lake Tahoe. Sacramento and surrounding communities woke to a red sun and smoky skies Friday as the blaze in the foothills east of the city continued to rage out of control. As of early Friday afternoon, it had consumed 29,585 acres with no containment, according to Cal Fire. No injuries to firefighters or residents had been reported, according to officials, but more than 2,500 people in small Sierra communities were under a mandatory evacuation order, and air quality in much of the area was hazardous.

The growth of L.A. County’s homeless population slowed during the pandemic. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority found that the region’s homeless population grew by 4.1% from 66,436 in 2020 to 69,144 in 2022. By contrast, the region’s homeless population exploded in size in previous years, growing by 25% between 2018 and 2020. Officials attributed the decelerating growth to pandemic-era policies including unemployment relief and rent and eviction moratoriums.

The ACLU alleged “medieval” conditions at L.A. County jail. Filth and degradation in the overcrowded Los Angeles County jail system has turned “barbaric” for a growing number of mentally ill inmates who are chained to chairs for days or left to sleep on a concrete floor without bedding, the civil rights group alleged. The group asked a federal judge for an emergency order to force Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the Board of Supervisors to clean up the inmate reception center in downtown L.A.

Bass’ free USC degree has pulled her into a federal corruption case. Federal prosecutors say the USC degree that Karen Bass, the leading contender to be L.A.’s next mayor, got for free years ago is important evidence in their corruption probe of a top university official and Mark Ridley-Thomas, the former L.A. County supervisor. Prosecutors have given no indication that Bass is under a criminal investigation.

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“Like a sitting duck.” The second-generation Prius, sold from 2004 to 2009, has become a prime target for catalytic converter theft in California. The car’s shoebox-sized anti-pollution device contains trace amounts of precious metals and can fetch several hundred dollars from scrapyards and recyclers.

An outdoor watering ban began for parts of L.A. County. The 15-day ban affects people in Beverly Hills, Glendale, Burbank, Malibu, Long Beach, Pasadena, San Fernando and Torrance, in addition to residents in the Central Basin Municipal Water District, Three Valleys Municipal Water District, Foothill Municipal Water District and West Basin Municipal Water District.

Newsom signed a landmark law for fast-food workers. The legislation creates a 10-member Fast Food Council with equal numbers of workers’ delegates and employers’ representatives, along with two state officials, empowered to set minimum standards for wages, hours and working conditions in California.

The FBI is investigating a Labor Day weekend cyberattack on LAUSD. Besides taking the district’s website offline, the attack resulted in staff and students losing access to email. Systems that teachers use to post lessons and take attendance also went down. By late Monday night, officials determined that the most vital systems were usable, and Supt. Alberto Carvalho decided to open schools as scheduled on Tuesday.

Gang outreach workers are wrestling with psychological scars. Gang interventionists have long been on the front lines of Los Angeles’ fight against gang violence. Amid renewed interest in their trade since the murder of George Floyd, they are recognizing the mental health effects of their jobs — and are seeking help.

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

The popularity of exclusive clubs for wealthy Angelenos grew during the pandemic. To get accepted into the private members clubs proliferating around L.A., having a lot of money is just the start. You’ll need to fill out an online application, sit for an interview with the vetting committee and exercise patience: The most elite clubs have waiting lists that stretch months if not years, with tens of thousands of names. Once you get in — if you do — there are membership fees to pay and rules to follow: restricted cellphone use, no photos or videos, dress codes, guest allowance limits, laptops in designated spaces only. Come to see and be seen, but don’t tell anyone about it.

When wildfires are too fast too escape. The Fairview and Mill fires brought the year’s wildfire death toll to nine, including four killed in Northern California’s McKinney fire and one in Petaluma’s Roblar fire earlier this summer. Officials say the sobering number underscores how the state’s climate change-fueled blazes are outpacing emergency alert systems and posing new threats to residents.

Even as movies go digital, we will always have crew merch. Crew jackets and movie-set memorabilia are littered all over thrift and antiques stores around the L.A. area. They’re little shreds of tangible nostalgia and conversation starters in social settings. A gaudy film logo slapped on the front or back of a bomber jacket. But as physical media become more and more scarce and companies like Warner Bros. Discovery bury films deep in their vaults, these pieces of memorabilia might be all we have left of the movies that defined us and inspired us to move to L.A. (or kept us here, for the natives) in the first place.

Today’s week-in-review newsletter was curated by Jason Sanchez. Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.

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