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.
NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.
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