Keep lead sentences really short. 5-10 words max. 

Use people words, not news words. No jargon.

Referendum, gubernatorial, legislative, subject, suspect, vehicle, apprehended, arraignment, residents, blaze etc.

Write about people and impact first, then process.

Work hard to avoid numbers.

5300 block, district 6, some 40,000 relief workers, 7,000 acres have burned, etc

Go light on the attributions and the allegeds. They are less necessary than you think.

Read it out loud!