The Short List headlines for Thursday, October 19 2017

P.M. Edition

JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

A billion dollars in damage

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Authorities have released new damage totals from the wildfires in Northern California, including 7,000 burned buildings. The loss total was expected to climb "probably dramatically so," California's insurance commissioner said at an L.A. press conference. Gov. Jerry Brown late Wednesday issued an executive order to speed up recovery efforts.

Cleaning up after a fire

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Ash can contain arsenic, mercury, lead and heavy metals, a Napa County health official told KPCC. She advised people to stay away from their burned homes, but understands the prospect of finding sentimental items will draw people back. In that case, "wear protection such as an N95 respirator, eye protection, gloves like construction gloves, a long sleeve shirt, long sleeve pants and construction boots with a steel toe."

'Drop, cover and hold on'

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The annual "ShakeOut" — a safety drill focused on earthquake preparedness and response — took place at 10:19 a.m. on... 10/19. But "drop, cover and hold on" might not apply if you are in transit when the quake begins. What if you're driving a car? Or riding a bike? Or on a train? Or taking the bus? Here's what to do in those scenarios.

Your earthquake game plan

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Experts recommend you have critical supplies stored and accessible BEFORE an earthquake hits. One way to get prepared is with an emergency "go bag," or kit with the necessary items to survive for at least a few days in a disaster. We've made a list of emergency preparedness tips and what you might need in your kit.

Wall-to-wall walls

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Eight looming prototypes for President Trump's border wall have been been erected in a remote section of San Diego. Four are made of solid concrete, four are steel and concrete, and one has spikes on top. They all approach 30 feet in height. Crews are expected to complete the models by the end of the month. We've got photos of what it looks like from Tijuana.

Worth one's salt?

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A controversial project to build a desalination plant in Huntington Beach is expected to go before the State Lands Commission Thursday more than 15 years after it was first proposed. Backers hope this will be one of the final regulatory hurdles. "If the project gets all of its permits, O.C. residents could be pouring desalinated water from their taps by 2022," an executive with the Orange County Water District said.

Body found near Mt. Wilson fire

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The burned male body was discovered late Wednesday and has yet to be identified. Firefighters are making slow but steady progress against the blaze that broke out near the 5,710-foot peak. Water-dropping aircraft protected the observatory and critical broadcast and communications antennas for the L.A. area.

California won't lower the bar for lawyers

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Becoming a lawyer in California isn't going to get easier. The state Supreme Court decided not to lower the minimum passing score on one of toughest licensing exams for attorneys in the U.S. Justices acknowledged a drop in the percentage of people passing the test, but said further study was needed to figure out why.

Trump's LA golf club said it gave millions to charity

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As recently as this summer, the club declared on its website: "We are proud to have provided $5 million to the following charitable causes since our opening." It listed nearly 200 recipients. NPR reporting suggests the club's donations have fallen well short of that and are closer to about $800,000 — less than one-fifth of what was claimed.

Ghouls and gourds: A guide to SoCal Halloween

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KPCC has a roundup of seasonally-appropriate haunts to hit up with your friends and family. See our list of fall festivals, pumpkin patches, Halloween railroads (really... it's a thing), haunted houses, creepy hayrides, zombie crawls, a costume carnival, amusement park extravaganzas and scary studio tours.