Book review by Aarene Storms: A Fire Story

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

A Fire Story by Brian Fies
(graphic novel/memoir)

October 7, 2017 was the beginning of the Tubbs Fire. It was, at the time, the most destructive and deadliest wildfire in California state history (since then, the Camp Fire has taken that dubious honor). 

Tubbs burned more than 36,000 acres and killed at least 22 people. 

Author/illustrator Brian Fies and his wife Karen woke up, loaded their pets and a few possessions into the back of a car and escaped. Their home -- and the houses of most of their neighbors in Santa Rosa -- burned to the ground.

The vast destruction of the Tubbs Fire is difficult to grasp, but the thousands of tiny losses experienced by the Fies family and others is relatable. Although the narrative begins with the immediate danger of fire, it continues on to describe the aftermath: staying with family, finding a temporary apartment, discovering that their "comprehensive homeowners insurance" was not even partly comprehensive.

At one point, the author tries to remember if he owns a wristwatch. His wife asks, "did you put one on, the night we left home?" He hadn't. 

And so, we understand, if he ever owned a wristwatch, he didn't own one anymore.

The narrative covers the escape from immediate danger, and also the traumatic aftermath. The loss of keepsakes and treasures was difficult enough for survivors. 

Their experience was made worse by unscrupulous insurance agencies, builders, and other carpetbaggers who swarmed and attempted to exploit victims of the fire.

The Tubbs Fire taught crisis managers a lot of processes and skills that have been used in years since. 

We have not yet learned enough. This timely true story is highly recommended for ages 14 to adult.

Some cussing (can you blame them?) and scary images.

Aarene Storms is a librarian who reads and reviews books for all ages. She can be reached at


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