The Week in Photos — an Orange Sky to a Charred Big Basin

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Sandra Raya, Senior Park Aid for Interpretors, looks at a burned redwood branches at Big Basin Redwoods State Park on Sept. 10, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

What happened this week? It's hard to tell through all that smoke. Here's a recap — in photos.

And after you've had time to take a look, hear more from KQED's photographer Beth LaBerge in this week's episode of The Bay.

People Are Surfing Under Smoky Orange Skies in San Francisco

Matt Cowdrey, Mark Paiz and Kyle Ortega get ready to paddle out and surf Ocean Beach in San Francisco under an orange-red sky caused by wildfires on Sept. 9, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

When the Bay Area woke up on Sept. 9, the skies were deep orange. Some saw it as a sign of the apocalypse and went back to bed. Others played David Bowie or watched "Blade Runner 2049." Just about everyone else took photos.

A surfer catches a wave at Ocean Beach in San Francisco under an orange-red sky caused by wildfires on Sept. 9, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

And then there's the group of surfers at Ocean Beach who said, "You know what? Let's hit the waves." (Full story)

No, You Didn’t Wake Up to the Apocalypse. Wildfire Smoke Turns Bay Area Sky Orange and Dark

A view of the San Francisco skyline from Dolores Park in San Francisco on Sept. 9, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Dense smoke plumes from several large wildfires burning in parts of Northern California and even Oregon are blocking out the sun, shrouding the Bay Area in an orange glow.


“We have multiple layers of clouds down near our regular marine layer,” said Jan Null, a meteorologist with Golden Gate Weather Services. “Up above, we have three or four different layers of smoke coming from a variety of fires as far away as Oregon; some fires to the east of Chico.”

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Shombe Randall, empleado del servicio postal, entrega correos en el vecindario Sunset de San Francisco el 9 de septiembre del 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED) (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Those layers, which cover most of the western two-thirds of California and are filtering out the sun, are made up of different densities of smoke. “In some cases, some of those plumes are 20 or 30,000 feet where they're being risen up by the heat from these fires,” Null said. (Full story)

After Fire, a Charred Big Basin Looks to the Future — and New Life

Redwood trees at Big Basin Redwoods State Park on Sept. 10, 2020, after the CZU Lightning Complex wildfire burned much of the area. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Before the wildfire that tore through in August 2020 forced its closure, Big Basin Redwoods State Park received about 250,000 visitors a year from around the world.

The ancient redwoods they came to see are some of the tallest living things on the planet. And when it was confirmed that many of those trees had in fact survived the huge CZU Lightning Complex fire, there was widespread relief.

Two California Park Rangers walk through Big Basin Redwoods State Park near the park headquarters on Sept. 10, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

The recovery of Big Basin is being supported by a huge fundraising effort by the Sempervirens Fund — California's oldest land trust, established in 1900.

Founded by a handful of redwoods enthusiasts in the Santa Cruz mountains, the Sempervirens Fund was responsible for lobbying for the creation of Big Basin itself in 1902, making it California's very first state park. Now, 120 years later, it's working with the park through its biggest crisis yet.

The remnants of a parking attendant structure at Big Basin Redwoods State Park on Sept. 10, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

"Things will definitely look different," said Sempervirens Fund Executive Director Sara Barth. (Full story)

What’s Lost in Bay Area Asian Culture When SF Eviction Moratorium Ends?

Diners eat outside at the Washington Bakery and Restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown on Sept. 2, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

“A lot of people, mostly older people, come every day to sit down and just have a cup of coffee, or a cup of lai chai,” Tilly Tsang said. “They just want to see if they know anybody so they can chat, chat, chat.”

Lai chai, or milk tea, is one of the many Hong Kong staples that Tsang has offered at her restaurant, a local favorite, for over two decades, along with their beloved baked pork chop rice plates and salt and pepper chicken wings. Her loyal customers include Chinatown residents who live in single-room occupancy hotels (SROs). They treat Tsang’s restaurant, and other immigrant and family-owned businesses, as an essential place to catch up and socialize with one another because many of their cramped buildings lack common areas.

Jade Zhu takes an order at a dining table outside of the Washington Bakery and Restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown on Sept. 2, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

But since the COVID-19 pandemic, small business owners like Tsang are facing the devastating reality that many will not survive. Tens of thousands have already permanently closed in the United States, and it is uncertain when another round of federal government assistance will arrive. Aid from the federal Paycheck Protection Program has largely run out for those who could get it.

Rita's Catering & Eatery serving Filipino cuisine from a food truck in the SOMA Pilipinas neighborhood in San Francisco on Sept. 2, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Eviction moratoriums have prevented more San Francisco businesses from folding, but the city’s commercial eviction moratorium ends on Sept. 14. That means commercial tenants will have until Monday to pay back missed rent payments – which for many add up to six months rent – or else landlords can start evicting them as early as October. Locals fear that once commercial evictions begin, those who depend on the businesses for jobs, culture and community will be displaced, and the cultural landscape of San Francisco will be irreparably harmed. (Full story)