California Sun

Good morning. It's Friday, July 27.

An explosive wildfire sends residents fleeing from Redding.
An oasis for people with schizophrenia thrives in Orange County.
And an investigation into secret tattooed cliques of deputies.

The lede


'Wall of flames'

The Carr Fire raged along Highway 299 in Redding on Thursday.

Noah Berger/A.P.

An explosive wildfire tore through two towns in Northern California on Thursday before jumping the Sacramento River and pushing into Redding, a city of about 92,000 people.

The so-called Carr Fire tripled in size in two days to more than 45 square miles, leaving a bulldozer operator dead, three firefighters injured, and at least 15 structures destroyed, officials said.

Frantic residents fled on Thursday in bumper-to-bumper traffic, the Record Searchlight reported, as the authorities issued warnings about the threat to human life.

“It’s just a wall of flames," a CalFire spokesman told the A.P. "It’s nonstop.”

Read more in the Sacramento Bee and A.P.

An inmate firefighter walked along Highway 299 as the Carr Fire scorched the Gold Rush-era town of Shasta.

Noah Berger/A.P.

A historic schoolhouse went up in flames.

Noah Berger/A.P.

The inferno sent up so much smoke that public health officials warned people to stay indoors.

Noah Berger/A.P.

The blaze was fueled by high temperatures, wind, and low humidity.

Noah Berger/A.P.




In recent weeks, officials have issued warnings about toxic algae blooms at bodies of water across the state. Among them have been lakes in Sonoma, Lake, Contra Costa, Madera, and Riverside counties. The blooms, which can sicken humans and kill animals, are triggered in part by warm temperatures. "We basically end up every year saying, ‘Don’t get in the water at this time of the year.'" one official said.


Red-eyed treefrogs. The earth's biodiversity is the result of billions of years of evolution.

A U.C. Davis professor is leading an audacious $5 billion project to collect and store the genetic blueprint of every plant, animal, and fungus known to science — all 1.5 million of them. Scientists say the modern-day Noah's ark could yield solutions to global hunger and a wave of new medical cures.


Even as California's partisan divide has widened, a poll found an area of surprising agreement: the environment. A solid percentage of California Republicans showed a willingness to break with the environmental policies of the Trump administration. “Many Republicans want stronger environmental protection and believe in climate change,” a researcher said.


Jim Steinle testified at a hearing on immigration enforcement in 2015. His daughter, Kathryn Steinle, was killed by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco.

Molly Riley/A.P.

Sanctuary laws were politicized by an accidental shooting. Many cops say sanctuary laws actually help fight crime. And many farmers in red California feel unfairly exposed to President Trump's immigration crackdown. A magazine published 11 things to know about California's controversial sanctuary policies.


Northern California


Facebook's stock plunge on Thursday was the largest single-day drop in value in Wall Street history, vaporizing roughly $120 billion of shareholder wealth. Part of the story was investor skittishness over slower growth. But Facebook also revealed that it plans to put more money into restoring its reputation than anyone expected.


In San Francisco, the destitute live alongside the ultra-wealthy.

“There’s so much wealth in San Francisco." Bay Area cities trying to reduce homelessness are trying a new tactic — making businesses pay for it. In San Francisco, for example, a November ballot initiative would impose a new homelessness tax on the city's largest companies. But the swift collapse of a similar effort in Seattle has raised doubts about whether it will work.


Juul marketing materials. The company has been accused of targeting young people.

Industry elders in Silicon Valley once counseled against investing in tobacco, alcohol, porn, and guns. Times have changed. Juul Labs, a San Francisco e-cigarette company, is raising $1.2 billion at a $15 billion valuation. "What was taboo once, is now a hot deal," a tech journalist wrote, adding, "The gawking coverage of the company makes it seem like anything but a cigarette peddler."


“The whole world knows this was racially motivated." Rage over the killing of 18-year-old Nia Wilson on an Oakland BART platform turned toward KTVU on Thursday. Demonstrators marched to the broadcaster's office to protest its use of an image of Wilson that purported to show her holding a gun. It was really a cellphone case, friends said. John Lee Cowell, 27, was charged with the murder. No racial motive has been reported.


Dave High, the owner of a health foods shop in Fresno, planned a small celebration for the 35th anniversary of his business. He put out cupcakes. But nobody showed. Then Kayla Jackson walked in. When she saw how sad he was, she posted a tweet with High's picture that said in part: "Can we get him some recognition?" The post went viral, drawing a nonstop parade of visitors. "I'm gonna need a bigger store," he said.


Southern California


Maria Butina has been accused of serving as a covert agent for Moscow.


F.B.I. agents scouring the emails of alleged Russian agent Maria Butina found that she dined with a U.S. congressman in 2017. Turns out, it was Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, the Orange County Republican known for his fondness for Russia. The revelation has provided more ammunition to critics who suspect he is on Russia's payroll.


On a quiet street in Santa Ana, nearly three dozen people with schizophrenia live in a cluster of cottages that blend right into the surrounding community. The campus represents a rare model of care that mental health professionals wish were more common. “They’re great,” a neighbor said. “I never had a problem with them. The neighborhood has never had a problem."


“Renegade cliques erode public confidence as well as internal morale, and they will not be tolerated." Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell launched an investigation into secret deputy cliques within the department that brand themselves with matching tattoos.


Pictured above is Geisel Library on the U.C. San Diego campus. Built in a distinctive Brutalist architectural style, it was named after Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, who was a longtime resident of nearby La Jolla. Getty Images just recognized the library as among the world's most beautiful.




The San Francisco Police Department went above and beyond in its lip sync video.


Here are five newsletter items that got big views over the past week:

California has been answering the call in a national lip sync battle among police departments. In San Francisco, police officers lip synced the Oakland rapper Too Short while driving motorcycles across the Bay Bridge. S.F.P.D./YouTube
Brock Turner, whose lenient sentence for sexual assault sparked national outrage, is appealing his conviction with a novel argument: He never intended to rape an unconscious woman, but rather to perform "outercourse" — or sexual contact while fully clothed. Mercury News

Michelle, Elaine, Sol, and Mitchell Salomon, of Northridge, vanished on Oct. 12, 1982.

Marty and Dorene Laffer

In 1982, a family disappeared from their San Fernando Valley home — seemingly without a trace. The case triggered one of the most unusual murder investigations in California history. Now, a magazine has published a chilling chronicle of justice denied. L.A. Magazine
A travel story about Los Angeles in the N.Y. Times drew exasperated reactions from locals over what they saw as its litany of clichés. One passage described shops in a historic Mexican marketplace as "the source of all useless items in the world." N.Y. Times

Elizabeth Holmes, at a San Francisco event in 2015, was accused of widespread fraud.

Jeff Chiu/A.P.

Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced leader of the blood-testing startup Theranos, has been portrayed by the men who surrounded her as an enchantress. The flip side, a journalist wrote, is "a bitch who crushed the men who questioned her." WIRED

Thanks for reading!

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

The Sun is built by Marquee on Proof.

Consider becoming a member.

Please tell us how we can make the newsletter better. Email

California Sun masthead
The California Sun, PO Box 6868, Los Osos, CA 93412
Wake up to must-read news from around the Golden State delivered to your inbox each morning.