Southern California history, culture haunted by wildfires

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LOS ANGELES -- The ashes are still smoldering from Southern California's second major wildfire in a week, a sign of what authorities warn could be one of the drought-plagued state's worst fire years.

But to the locals, the burning hills have also long been a part of life and key ingredient in the state's folklore and identity -- immortalized in art and popular culture from Nathanael West's 1939 novel The Day of The Locust to ''L.A. Woman,'' 1960s rock band The Doors' dark homage to the city...

''Los Angeles weather is the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse, and just as the reliably long and bitter winters of New England determine the way life is lived there, so the violence and the unpredictability of the Santa Ana effect the entire quality of life in Los Angeles,'' [Joan] Didion wrote [in her essay ''The Santa Ana.'']

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