California Today: California Today: Outlier Fires Are Becoming The Norm

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A firefighter trying to contain a wildfire in Ventura, Calif. More than 1,000 firefighters are battling the flames. Credit Noah Berger/Associated Press

Good morning.

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The fires raging through Southern California are ferocious and fast. They are also unusual.

Fire season usually peaks in October in California, when the dry summer heat still lingers and the winter rains have not yet arrived.

Yet the unusual is becoming usual in California.

“Fires in the winter months are uncommon,” said Chief Daniel Berlant, assistant deputy director of Calfire. “But in the last decade we’ve had more and more fires in the nontraditional fire season months, which really emphasizes the changing climate that we have here in California.”

As the October wine country fires exemplified, wildfires in California are also becoming larger and more intense.

Of the 20 largest wildfires in the state over the past century, 13 of them — two thirds — have occurred since 2002, according to Calfire.

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Fueled by Santa Ana winds, the intensity of this week’s fires made it very hard for firefighters to do anything to stop them. On Tuesday evening there were seven active fires in Southern California, according to Calfire. The Thomas fire, the largest, burned 35,000 acres in the first 12 hours alone. By Tuesday night it had spread to more than 50,000 acres. The winds are forecast to continue into the weekend and will not peak until Thursday, according to Chief Berlant.

Chief Berlant, who is the head of Calfire’s prevention efforts, says it is crucial for the state to consider fire safety when planning roads and housing developments. As one example, building codes were changed a decade ago to make roofs more likely to withstand embers falling on them.

“We know we have a changing climate and we have to adapt to it,” Chief Berlant said. “Our homes and our communities need to be more resilient to wildfires.”

The Times has reporters on the ground covering the fires. Follow developments today here.

Were you evacuated because of the fires? We hope you and your loved ones are safe. If you are in a safe place, we would like to hear from you. What was your experience like? Please email us at catoday@nytimes.com A reporter or editor might contact you to follow up.

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A resident preparing to evacuate his home in Santa Paula. More than 27,000 people have been forced to evacuate. Officials warned that number is likely to grow in the coming days. Credit Ringo Chiu/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

• Scenes of devastation from the wildfires. [The New York Times] Aerial photos. [Mashable]

• California could be hit with significantly more dangerous and more frequent droughts in the near future as changes in weather patterns triggered by global warming block rainfall from reaching the state. [Los Angeles Times]

• Arrests of people trying to cross illegally into the U.S. from Mexico plunged to the lowest level since 1971 but immigration arrests in the interior of the country increased by 25 percent. [KQED]

• Days after an acquittal in the murder trial of Kathryn Steinle, federal prosecutors charged Jose Ines Garcia Zarate of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition and being an immigrant in the country illegally in possession of a firearm and ammunition. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for each charge. [KQED]

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Shervin Pishevar is stepping away from Sherpa Capital and the boards of several other companies after reports that five women have accused him of sexual harassment or assault. Credit Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

• Shervin Pishevar is taking a leave of absence from his venture capital firm and the boards of several companies he sits on amid reports that he sexually harassed or assaulted five women. [The New York Times]

• Amid spiraling housing costs, Berkeley Unified School District is considering developing low-rent housing for teachers. [Berkeleyside]

• San Francisco is the first U.S. city to base its parking rates on driver demand citywide. Hourly rates will vary by time of day and block by block. [San Francisco Chronicle]

Oakland strike: The city is offering municipal employees a wage increases of 4 percent and another possible 2 percent tied to future tax revenue projections. Mayor Libby Schaaf called the strike unlawful. [East Bay Times]

• San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday to put tough restrictions on sidewalk robots. Supervisor Malia Cohen is worried about stifling innovation. Robots, she said, might be able to pick up needles left by intravenous drug users. [San Francisco Examiner]

Christmas tree prices have spiked this year as supply is down. The number of growers in the Pacific Northwest Christmas tree Association dropped from 524 members in 2009 to 275 members this year. [The Orange County Register]

Jodi Kantor, Emily Steel and Megan Twohey, Times investigative reporters who broke stories about Harvey Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly, discussed what it was like behind the scenes of reporting process. They were joined by the actress Ashley Judd, whose own story of harassment by Mr. Weinstein helped spark the current #MeToo Moment. [Video: The New York Times]

And Finally ...

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Andrew-Ian Bullitt, a Berkeley student, with a llama. Credit Gissell Vásquez/ASUC UC Berkeley

It’s approaching finals week at the University of California, Berkeley, a time of all-around stress and deadlines before the winter break.

Bring in the emotional support animals.

Ana Mancia, a third-year student studying business, organized a parade of llamas to the campus on Monday.

“We really wanted to bring something unusual,” she said.

Llamas have been coming to campus for several years, including during the Suicide Prevention Walk, an annual event at Berkeley and other universities.

“These are therapy llamas,” Ms. Mancia said.

Last week a group brought puppies to campus. On Monday, students flocked to the llamas to pet the animals and take selfies.

“We really wanted to bring an animal that would be very calm with students, that would help them with their mental health,” Ms. Mancia said. “They are also just really cute.”

California Today goes live at 6 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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