California Sun

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California is first state to mandate vaccines for health workers.
Hydropower plant at Lake Oroville shuts because of low water.
And a resident writes a heartbreaking eulogy for Greenville.

California on fire


Downtown Greenville laid in ruins on Thursday.

Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

“There’s nothing left, almost nothing left of the town.”

Officials on Thursday estimated that more than 100 homes were lost in the Greenville area after the Dixie fire stampeded through the historic Gold Rush town. Just a few downtown structures remained standing, including a dollar store, a bank, and a small supermarket. Four people were missing. Plumas County Sheriff Todd Johns, a lifelong resident of Greenville, said residents' lives were forever changed. "And all I can tell you is I’m sorry," he said. Record Searchlight | Sacramento Bee


Wildfires raged across Northern California on Thursday.

Other Dixie fire developments:

The wildfire's northern edge raced into Lassen Volcanic National Park on Thursday, forcing its closure. KRCR |
Winds pushed the fire to 565 square miles, making it the sixth largest in California history. Another day of explosive growth was expected Friday. A map. 👉 InciWeb
Piles of rubble, blackened structures, and scorched benches: The photographer Stuart Palley captured incredible images of Greenville. Washington Post
"I’m thinking of all the rituals big and small that made us a special place to be." A longtime resident wrote a heartbreaking eulogy for Greenville. Plumas News

Roughly 70 miles south of Greenville, another inferno skirted the Gold Country town of Colfax, destroying dozens of structures. Fire officials said on Thursday that they were frustrated by residents who refused to leave. "We have firefighters getting guns pulled out on them because people don't want to evacuate," said Jake Cagle, of California Incident Management. S.F. Chronicle | CNN


On this week's California Sun Podcast, host Jeff Schechtman talks with Jaime Lowe, author of the new book "Breathing Fire: Female Inmate Firefighters on the Front Lines of California's Wildfires." For many women, joining the inmate fire force is a form of escape, Lowe said: "The majority of the time women are opting for that program because the conditions in state prison and county jails are so dehumanizing and so appalling."




Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state's healthcare workers would have show proof of vaccination or submit to regular testing. But a health order issued Thursday dispenses with the testing option: the state's roughly 2.2 million health care workers must now be vaccinated by the end of September. Officials described the order as the first of its kind in the nation. CalMatters | A.P.


Homeless tents lined a sidewalk on Skid Row in Los Angeles on Nov. 25, 2020.

Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

Gov. Gavin Newsom, in a tightening recall fight, called on Thursday for more aggressive efforts to clear the streets of homeless encampments, echoing a stance held by many of his Republican rivals. Newsom said the authorities were correct to boot homeless people from Echo Park and Venice Beach in recent months. “You got to be honest," he said. "This is not acceptable. People shouldn’t be living out in the streets and sidewalks.” L.A. Times

Newsom lashed out at the leading Republican candidate, Larry Elder, on Thursday, calling him a climate change denier who would restrict abortion rights and end the minimum wage. L.A. Times


Northern California


Lake Oroville, seen on July 22, has fallen to an all-time low.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

On Thursday, officials shut down the hydropower plant at Lake Oroville because there's not enough water to power it, an extraordinary sign of California's deepening drought crisis. The reservoir in the northern Sierra foothills is now less than a quarter full, the lowest level since the dam was erected in 1967. The loss of the plant, the state's fourth-largest hydroelectric energy producer, could contribute to rolling blackouts during heat waves. A.P. | Sacramento Bee


A restaurant in San Francisco came up with a ridiculous $72 fried rice dish — intended as a joke. “The premise was, let’s do something so over-the-top and bougie,” said Chef Rob Lam. “We called it the #1 douchebag fried rice.” But it became a huge hit, as influencers embraced the dish as the next hot thing to eat in San Francisco. Lam, uncomfortable with making bad food even if just for laughs, ultimately killed the dish. S.F. Chronicle | Mashed


Southern California


The San Diego Sheriff's Department shared a powerful video that shows a deputy collapsing after making contact with fentanyl, a synthetic drug 50 times more potent than heroin, during an arrest on July 3. Deputy David Faiivae was dying, unable to breathe. His partner quickly administered Narcan, an overdose reversal drug. "I'm not going to let you die," he told him repeatedly. After some time, Faiivae replied in a weak voice: “I’m sorry.” KGTV | S.D. Union-Tribune


On a lark about fours years ago, Yarely Alejandre, an English professor in San Diego, made a floral crown for her Australian shepherd and posted a photo to Instagram. Then her life changed. The online response was so enthusiastic that Alejandre realized she might have a side hustle on her hands. Freya's Floral Company, a handmade floral crown business, has been transforming ordinary dogs and cats into majestic, fairy-tale creatures ever since.

👇 A few favorites from Alejandre's Instagram feed.


California archive


John Storey/S.F. Chronicle, via StoryCorps

On March 11, 2005, Kevin Berthia, pictured in the white shirt above, didn't think he could go on. His daughter was born premature, saddling him with enormous medical debt. As he prepared to leap from the Golden Gate Bridge, Berthia was spotted by Kevin Briggs, a CHP officer, who rushed over. He just wanted to talk, Briggs told him. Berthia paused. After an hour and a half of conversation, Berthia agreed to climb back from the ledge. He tried not to think about that day on the bridge for years. But in 2015, he sat down with Briggs for an oral history project. Berthia said his daughter was 10 now. "Had you not been there," he told Briggs, "I wouldn't get to see her grow up." Hear excerpts from their conversation. 👉 StoryCorps (~2:30 mins)


In case you missed it


Five items that got big views over the past week:

In 1885, the Skunk Train was carved through Mendocino County to transport logs. The route has now been repurposed for railbikes, a wonderful mashup of the railroad, history, cycling, and the stars of the show: ancient redwoods. Here's what it's like to take a ride. 👉 Vimeo (~10 mins)
For the photographer Mimi Plumb, growing up in 1950s and ’60s Walnut Creek was the blandest possible existence. She snapped thousands of pictures. Collected in the volume "The White Sky,” the work captures a land of stifled youth and encroaching suburbia. Booooooom | Lens Culture
In the 1980s, Bobby Furst, an artist who had enough of Los Angeles, moved onto a patch of desert near Joshua Tree, where he created spaces for live performances and shelter for fellow travelers. Here's a great little documentary on what has been dubbed Furstwurld. 👉 YouTube (~15 mins)
Wind farms are required to monitor the wildlife impacts of their spinning turbines. That's resulted in a steady stream of work for scent-detection dogs, by far the quickest and most effective way to find bird and bat carcasses. The Atlantic
Alex Honnold, the Sacramento climber known for seemingly impossible feats on rock walls, once did a breakdown of famous climbing scenes in action movies. It's immensely entertaining. 👉 YouTube/GQ Sports (~14 mins)

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The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.

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