A Fire Story

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 04 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

A Fire Story by Brian Fies is a 2019 Harry N. Abrams publication. 

This graphic novel depicts Brian Fies’ personal experiences when he lost his home during the 2017 Northern California wildfires.

His Webcomic and subsequent graphic novel has been a cathartic journey as he chronicles the various emotions he and his family felt, in the process of moving forward after such an incredibly difficult loss. He also adds others personal stories into the novel, adding even more poignancy to the devastation. The sense of community is also prevalent as people rose to the occasion to help their families, friends, and neighbors. 

Brian’s sense of displacement, his broken- heartedness, and shock, leaps from the pages as does his temerity and the admission that while the process is slow and hard, and the days ahead were long and arduous, he and his family are determined to move forward and rebuild their lives. 

My heart truly broke for Brian and the other families and people who shared their stories. Brian did a terrific job conveying his emotions and the way he and others around him dealt with the pain and what steps they had to take in order to move on with their lives. 

From a personal standpoint, I have never experienced such a devastating loss. However, while in high school, two good friends of mine lost their homes to fire. It is so hard to comprehend, unless you experience something like that in an up close and personal way, how truly devastating it is to lose every single thing you own. It’s not just the obvious loss of things and stuff, it’s the sentimental loss, and the feeling of disassociation. Rebuilding, even if you have good insurance, even with the promise of a fresh start, just doesn’t offer all that much comfort when all you want to do is go home. 



This is a very emotional and powerful story which started as a Webcomic, which is also included in this book. Because this is a graphic novel, and the visuals are of utmost importance within this format, I must admit I wasn’t bowled over by the artwork. The style may have been a statement, in part due to the gravity of the subject matter. The artwork is in black and white and maybe a little too simplistic, but again, but it does capture the essence of the situation, which is what counts at the end of the day. The timeline is also a bit choppy, but not hard to follow and is really a minor complaint. There are also real photos included driving home the reality of damage done by the raging fires. 

I recommend this book to everyone, even if graphic novels aren't really your thing. Once the impact hits you, you will most likely feel compelled to count your blessings and will feel grateful for having a roof over your head, a toothbrush, a change of clothes, your personal papers, and a hundred other small things we all take for granted every day. 

I was also inspired by Brian’s story, his bravery in sharing his raw emotions with us, and despite his depressing circumstances, his fortitude, his sense of humor, and compassion for others who shared in his loss. 

4 stars
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A Fire Story by Brian Fries recounts the effects of the 2017 California wildfires from the perspective of a family that lived it. The Fries' lost everything. They fled with the fire knocking at their back door. Brian was among the handful who went back and valiantly tried to make a difference. Unfortunately, not even fire trucks made a difference. The description/ depiction of the aftermath was horrifying. Metal was twisted, plastics melted to puddles, and houses were vanished, leaving foundations and detritus to be shifted through. But only after the EPA deemed it safe. Thousands lost homes, and all documentation. They had to go through complicated processes to replace birth certificates, passports, SSN cards, etc., and fight to cancel gas/power/water services. That cartoon panel was hilarious with the facial expression changes. Reading about the fires, and seeing it via drawing, it was kinda hard. I'm terrified of fire. Where I live in CA we haven't had a wildfire. We're right on the coast. But they've been close enough that we can smell the smoke. And I work at an inn, so we housed fire victims who ended up staying weeks with us. 

***Many thanks to Netgalley & Abrams for providing an ecopy in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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A striking and moving look at what happens when a wildfire takes your home. Brian Fies is a cartoonist who draws the story of what happened the night his house (and neighborhood) burned to the ground, as well as the long recovery process that he is still going through. Funny and heart-wrenching in turns, Fies brings the situation to life for the reader.
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I was one of those who read the original posted online when it went viral right after the fire.  The short piece then was heartbreaking; the full length book even more so.  Get your tissues ready - I read this at work so I could barely read one page at a time, start to tear up, and had to find something else to do before going back to it.  I just can't imagine what they all went through.  But despite it's topic, it is really well done - I loved the simple artwork and the incorporation of some of his photographs of the experience.  I especially liked how he wove others' stories in with his own as well.  And perhaps now is a good time to go over my household's disaster plan...
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This was a very eye opening graphic novel. It was even freakiest because when I read this those huge California fires were going on. Very good art and very interesting story.
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A haunting memoir that retains the emotional intensity of the original created so close to the tragic events. The stark illustration style really cuts to the core of the story as well, with the photographs peppered in backing up the facts. The story of forest fires ravaging towns is becoming one that's sadly almost constant in media these days and this book will help readers think about what those stories mean on a personal scale.
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Both a personal long-form tale of how a California wildfire affected an illustrator and his family, along with his neighborhood, and how the wildfire affected others.
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A Fire Story is a tragic account of the California fires and their effect on one man and his family, detailing the heartbreak of losing everything you own in minutes. The story shows the journey many families are forced to take and the realization that life will never be the same again. With expertly drawn panels and a thorough attention to detail, Fies has created an essential account of the effects of natural disasters on families, towns, and regions. 

We’re seeing the gradual healing process in the panels, watching at Fies and his wife come to terms with the loss of their history. There were many moments where I stopped and looked around my own home, trying to imagine what it would be like if everything disappeared. He recounts his homeowning history, revealing that all three homes his family has lived in were lost in the same fire. There is no going back, no driving past an old familiar place or revisiting it through pictures or videos. 

It’s a thorough account of what people experience in this type of disaster. We see interactions with insurance adjusters, with FEMA and the many good samaritans who try to lend a hand in the aftermath. We see the gradual replacement of essentials items and the sifting through ash that reveals tiny treasures hidden amidst the ruins. Fies also peppers in the stories of other neighbors and friends, and it’s heartbreaking all around.

I was most impressed by the alternating art styles, shifting from clean cut drawings to unfinished sketches. These draft-like panels feel tenuous, as though Fies isn’t completely present for what’s happening around him. I imagine living through something like this would feel like you’ve lost a part of your identity, and we see that struggle to regain his past within these panels. 

Overall, A Fire Story is an important piece of work that needs to be read. It’s for those wishing to understand the real impact of a disaster, and for those who are still struggling to cope with their own loses. It’s one man’s account amidst thousands, a relative history of a most unexpected event.
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This is a moving story about a family going through so much after a huge fire ruined their physical belongings. You think that wouldn't be that big of a deal, because material items can "easily" be replaced and what not, but honestly I was so moved by this entire story from beginning to end. So moving, I cried at times. The art is nice, not spectacular or necessarily different, but good. I did however find myself a little bored at the pages with just text on them, but it is more related to my ADD tendencies than it being a bad story or anything. Thanks for letting me review and I love it! will definitely check it out once it printed!
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A Fire Story was a heartbreaking and touching read complete with real photographs from the damage and aftermath, as well as accounts of the fire and people's lives afterwards from the authors neighbours and friends. The illustrations were fantastic and the narrative was really well done and felt like it didn't leave any details out. I thought this was very well done and despite the dreadful circumstances, I enjoyed reading this.
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Graphic memoirs have been becoming more popular over the last decade. It is a genre I haven’t read too extensively (only Clumsy jumps to mind), but I can see how they have the ability to really connect with people and share powerful stories. I decided to give one a try, and picked up A Fire Story.
California was ravaged by fires during the summer of 2017. The landscape was hit hard, and many people lost their homes. Among those who lost their homes was Brian Fies. He shares his story of learning of the fire, leaving his home, and beginning the recovery process after learning his family had lost almost all of their belongings along with their home.
If I’m being totally honest here, I’m struggling with my review of this a bit. The tragedy experienced by Fies and so many others deserves coverage and in this book Fies does a nice job of providing ways for people to help those impacted by these fires. I want to encourage titles that seek to build empathy and shared humanity in dark and desperate times.
That said, I didn’t really enjoy A Fire Story. Big chunks of this volume felt tedious. The pacing was off-kilter, as well, with large chunks of text disrupting the flow of Fies’ narrative. This felt like a collection of fragments trying to bill itself as a cohesive narrative, and instead finding itself unsuccessful at both. I really found A Fire Story to be weak.
Fans of graphic memoirs might consider this one. However, on its own, A Fire Story does not have enough merits for me to recommend it.

Review will appear at the provided link on 3/14/19
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I had never read a comic story before doing found this to be really unique. I found parts hard to read because of the formatting. It was so unique to place such a terrible situation in this format. I really appreciated how honest and raw it was. It is true that the public never heard what happens after the immediate aftermath so I had a lot of sympathy for the pain they continue to go through that no amount of platitudes can fix
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Although I could see the potential in this text, I was not able to sustain my attention and finish the narrative.
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An interesting and heartbreaking account of losing nearly everything in a fire. While I didn't love the art style, the way this memoir is laid out was really engaging, I especially liked the inclusion of other peoples stories along side the authors own.
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This is a heartbreaking tale of what many families lost in the wildfires of 2017. It's hard to imagine loss like this when you have never experienced it firsthand, but Brian Fies did excellent bringing forth many emotions with his writing and illustrations. He even included actual photographs of the scenes which made his art even more authentic.

Thank you NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this in exchange for an honest review.
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This is a firsthand account of the wildfires that swept across Northern California in October 2017. As a graphic novel, it allows for a sense of immediacy that it might be hard to convey using words alone. The images and story are frightening, dramatic and poignant, explaining not only what happened on the night of the fires, but what happened afterwards to the people who lost their homes and possessions. By including several other people’s stories as well as his own, Fies humanises the tragedy and shows the people behind the news footage.
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This book was a graphic novel told about how the author, Brian Fies and his wife survived the 2017 Santa Rosa fires. In light of the most recent fires in 2018, it was kind of hard to read the first accounts of people who survived the fires but lost everything. Leaning about how hard it is to get aid and about people who lost pets, neighbors and important possessions was difficult both see and read about, but I think that it is an important read.
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This is similar to The Best We Could Do in that it is both a series of comics and a memoir. It's the story of the Californian fire, and how it affected Brian Fies and his wife's lives.

Fies begins by illustrating how the couple awoke on the night of the fire, and how they began to frantically yet methodically pack up their belongings. He details the escape, the bewilderment they felt and the huge sense of loss. Later, he really emphasises how much a person grieves for the loss of their home and belongings. It's not the value that's important, it's the memories.

Throughout the book there are also several other people's experiences. Some were also in their home at the time of the fire, while others were on holiday abroad, watching the events unfold through social media. All of these accounts had one particular thing in common: they all mention how they did not expect to be gone from their homes forever. They thought they would be able to return soon, and did not plan on leaving everything behind for the final time.

This was a fantastic book. Fies included little comics illustrating "a day in the life" after the fire, where the little, seemingly insignificant things reminded them of their loss. He also follows up with the process of reconstructing their house - and outlines some of the difficulties they never expected to face.

The art was lovely, with enough detail to clearly illustrate the events. The dialogue was perfect and sounded completely authentic, and expressed the emotions well. 5 stars.
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I was a victim of the Santa Barbara Tea Fire in 2008, and even ten years later it's funny just how cathartic this read was for me. The author hits all the points of a shared community trauma-- right down to the little tedious bits like insurance making you list everything you lost and just how emotionally hard that is to do, or the way people outside of the trauma impart well-meaning but ultimately unhelpful truisms, or even ways in which members of the community come together. While this memoir touches a specific time and place, it is also relatable to a wider audience, as it touches on issues of what makes us unique as individuals, how we cope with loss, and how we struggle to move forward through difficulties in life. Thanks to Netgalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Fire Story, written and illustrated by author Brian Fies is amazingly shocking considering what happened also this year in California. 

Global Warming helped by people not too educated who leave in the woods pieces of glass in grade to become real "bombs" of fires, create a point: California is burning and every tree burnt means less oxygen for the Planet and for the population without counting what happens to the population if in grade to run away as soon as possible in term of stress, in term of a new re-start, tragic, and never simple.

At the moment, an entire town of 27.000 people, Paradise, paradoxically became a real hell: destroyed weeks ago, like also localities chosen by the stars of Hollywood and rich people because beautiful locations where to living in.

In this new book by ABRAMS that will come soon the first account of what it meant in the Napa Valley Fire of last year to leave, if not forever, for a long while, the house where Brian Fies lived in; it will be necessary to re-build completely the home where people spent many years of their existence but at the same time everyone know that it won't have the same taste, because the place radically changed after the fire and it will take decades for seeing the lost scenario left behind and eaten by the fire restored as it was previously.

The story starts from an alarm and once the couple know that they must leave, what they want to keep and what they want to leave; a brief selection of the most important items of the existence made in a few minutes knowing that maybe all the rest left behind will be destroyed forever. Animals, some clothes, maybe the smart phone, some photo albums for not seeing destroyed all the existence also fixated in pictures; some special items. 

Behind an entire existence of objects speaking of special moments that burning will become sweet and lost memories.

Sometimes there were precious items left alone in a  drawer and not immediately remembered because old more than 20-30 years; sometimes objects speaking to the soul but that couldn't accompany people who left the house rushing and searching, first of all to save their existence.

This account will introduce us, sometimes ironically, also the problematic of the "immediately after" reporting also an account of  many other people who, that October 9 2017 lost everything. Numbers are immense also in the big fire of the past year: 6.200 homes and 8.900 structures were destroyed. 

This book was previously launched on the net and with great success.

I strongly recommend it to all of you, for trying to understand what it means to lose everything in a few seconds for re-build an existence ex novo.

I thank NetGalley and ABRAMS for this ebook.
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