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The inside story of death and survival as the Carr Fire's tornado of flames stormed Redding — and changed firefighting in a warming California


For over three decades Robert Tyler, 59, worked on and off in the communications field but was unable to keep a steady job. “Somehow it don’t last,” says Tyler, “Always have good jobs, but they don’t last.” Now Tyler survives as a street performer and can often be found outside Bay-area sporting events.


Luane Beck had tried everything to heal her young son Jordan, who suffers from autism and life-threatening seizures. Since adopting him as an infant, she’d employed multiple therapies, prescription drugs, and alternative treatments that came with lots of promise and few results. Desperate, she turned to an unproven, risky therapy she believed might be his last hope: stem cells. Unable to get the treatment in the United States, and against the advice of some doctors, Beck spent thousands of dollars of her own money to take Jordan to a clinic in Tijuana.

This piece paints a portrait of a family desperate for hope and searching for answers.


Like so many displaced people, Ronald Weeks has lost everything he owns more than once. He is one of about 50 people living in a homeless encampment along Wood St. in Oakland. Recently, he has dedicated his time to building homes for the people in his community. His first one, which he built for himself, is nearly complete. Unfortunately, Weeks may lose it before he has the chance to move in. A developer has purchased the land on which it sits and has given him, and others, two weeks notice to vacate the property. Despite the setback Weeks remains hopeful. "I'm not going to give up", he says, "I'm not giving up on any of these people." He hopes to continue his mission of helping himself and others by building homes elsewhere.


Each year, California’s wildfires grow in frequency and intensity. 2018 was the worst year on record, as fires claimed the lives of 100 people. Three of those people meant the world to Ed Bledsoe, who lost his wife and great-grandchildren in July’s Carr Fire. Despite his efforts to race home he was unable to save them. Instead, he listened helplessly on the phone as they perished.


This is the story of a remarkable young woman who refuses to let Down syndrome stop her from pursuing her dreams.

Angela Rose Dorantes, owner of Steppin’ Out Dance Studio, was teaching a class for young children when she noticed a student’s younger sister dancing along on the sidelines. Olivia Byers-Straus, who has Down syndrome, was 2 at the time. The next season she would join a class for little sisters. That was more than 20 years ago. She hasn’t stopped dancing since.


San Francisco Chronicle visual journalists give their perspectives on covering the events of 2020.

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