How do you cope with trauma? How are you dealing with the news? I tend to search out books as a way to help cope. Since August 2020, the news has been broadcasting stories about fires all over the West Coast: California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, among others. It’s hard for me to grasp the severity of a situation over the news, so I always seek out other sources of knowledge: informational studies, interviews, books, magazine articles, etc. In an effort to learn more, I went searching in the library for information about California wildfires.
Wanting to read a firsthand account, I found A Fire Story by Brian Fies, an author and illustrator whose home was destroyed by a wildfire in 2017.
This graphic novel began as a webcomic right after Brian, his wife, and their two pets evacuated their California home in the early morning on October 9, 2017 due to a massive wildfire. These wildfires burned through Northern California, eventually resulting in 44 fatalities and the complete destruction of 8,900 structures, including 6,200 homes. When Brian and his family evacuated, they didn’t think they would be gone for long, so they only grabbed a few items. In the days that followed their evacuation, Brian bought what art supplies he could find and started to draw an online comic that would become viral and turn into the full-length graphic novel, A Fire Story.
In addition to focusing on what happened to Brian and his family, this graphic novel also talks about environmental factors that played into the fire, as well as helping readers gain a better understanding of how this disaster occurred. Brian also portrays the stories of others that were affected by this disaster.
While this story by no means gave me a full and complete understanding of wildfires, it helped me discover terminology and location information that has helped me learn more about the current wildfires happening on the West Coast. This graphic novel has provided me with a starting point to learn more, as well as a look at a firsthand account of the devastation these fires had on residents.