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Hail of Fire: A Man and His Family Face Natural Disaster

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Every year people watch in shock as homes are destroyed and communities devastated by natural disasters. As the media arrives, the information that is reported is mainly statistical. The horror of living through and recovering from the experience is rarely told because almost no one has the emotional strength to speak out while the smoke is still in the air or the floodwat Every year people watch in shock as homes are destroyed and communities devastated by natural disasters. As the media arrives, the information that is reported is mainly statistical. The horror of living through and recovering from the experience is rarely told because almost no one has the emotional strength to speak out while the smoke is still in the air or the floodwaters are still receding. The stories of a disaster’s most important effects—which unfold invisibly for months and sometimes years—are never told. That is, until now. Hail of Fire: A Man and His Family Face Natural Disaster is an intimate account of the third worst wildfire in modern U.S. history, and the most destructive in the history of Texas. It is a memoir about what happened to Randy Fritz, an artist turned politician turned public policy leader, and his family during and after, combining a searing account of the fire as it grew to apocalyptic strength with universal themes of loss, grief, and the rebuilding of one’s life after a calamitous event. The wildfire itself was traumatic to those who witnessed it and suffered its immediate aftermath. But the most significant impact came in the months and years that followed.


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Every year people watch in shock as homes are destroyed and communities devastated by natural disasters. As the media arrives, the information that is reported is mainly statistical. The horror of living through and recovering from the experience is rarely told because almost no one has the emotional strength to speak out while the smoke is still in the air or the floodwat Every year people watch in shock as homes are destroyed and communities devastated by natural disasters. As the media arrives, the information that is reported is mainly statistical. The horror of living through and recovering from the experience is rarely told because almost no one has the emotional strength to speak out while the smoke is still in the air or the floodwaters are still receding. The stories of a disaster’s most important effects—which unfold invisibly for months and sometimes years—are never told. That is, until now. Hail of Fire: A Man and His Family Face Natural Disaster is an intimate account of the third worst wildfire in modern U.S. history, and the most destructive in the history of Texas. It is a memoir about what happened to Randy Fritz, an artist turned politician turned public policy leader, and his family during and after, combining a searing account of the fire as it grew to apocalyptic strength with universal themes of loss, grief, and the rebuilding of one’s life after a calamitous event. The wildfire itself was traumatic to those who witnessed it and suffered its immediate aftermath. But the most significant impact came in the months and years that followed.

50 review for Hail of Fire: A Man and His Family Face Natural Disaster

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Memoir Randy Fritz Hail of Fire: A Man and His Family Face Natural Disaster San Antonio: Trinity University Press Hardcover, 978-1595342591 (also available in ebook) 320 pages, $24.95 June 12, 2015 “At least seventy thousand wildfires happen every year in America, and most regenerate healthy forests, culling underbrush, improving the soil, and unspooling the life resting inside pinecones….Some of them shed their better natures, mutating into something dangerous enough that heavy equipment and elite fi Memoir Randy Fritz Hail of Fire: A Man and His Family Face Natural Disaster San Antonio: Trinity University Press Hardcover, 978-1595342591 (also available in ebook) 320 pages, $24.95 June 12, 2015 “At least seventy thousand wildfires happen every year in America, and most regenerate healthy forests, culling underbrush, improving the soil, and unspooling the life resting inside pinecones….Some of them shed their better natures, mutating into something dangerous enough that heavy equipment and elite firefighters must be called in….Of those, only a few turn into criminals, taking lives and destroying homes. But in the modern era, there have been only two wildfires, both in California, more vicious and pitiless than the one that changed my life after nearly killing me.” Hail of Fire: A Man and His Family Face Natural Disaster is Randy Fritz’s memoir about the Bastrop County, Texas, wildfire of 2011 — the most destructive in Texas history — that incinerated the Lost Pines area (almost fifty-five square miles) and left nearly 1,700 families (including the Fritz family) homeless. Fritz viscerally conveys the horror, loss, and regret he experienced. He finds that the John Wayne personality traits that served him well before the fire — antiauthoritarian, argumentative, stubborn, self-absorbed, prideful bordering on hubristic — fail him utterly when depression and the five stages of grief set in. After a diagnosis of PTSD, Fritz finds relief in therapy, surprising himself. “I was a fifty-six-year-old adolescent when the fire happened….But since the fire, maybe for the first time in my life, I consider myself a grown-up. Instead of strong opinions and a need to defend them, now I have one sole unshakable conviction: the futility of dogmatic belief. What could be worse than certitude for a self-aware being in a universe of endless ambiguity and countless contradictions?” Fritz’s engaging narrative is interwoven with flashbacks that serve to flesh out his family’s lives and powerfully convey what has been lost. His descriptions of the Lost Pines as a primordial and spiritual “private arboretum”, “a dense forest of mature loblolly pines, some of which soared nearly a hundred feet, with four-foot diameters” are deeply affecting in their stark contrast to his imagery post-fire: “It was like the landscape had been flayed, the skin of life surgically peeled off.” The facts are compelling and the science of wildfires as explained in layman’s terms by Fritz is fascinating. For instance, horizontal roll vortices are “flipped-on-their-side twisters…like a conveyor belt that allows the fire to glide across the forest’s ceiling.” Did I mention it’s also terrifying? In the end he makes a tentative peace with the fire. “I finally came to understand an essential paradox of a natural or personal disaster. While the wildfire seemed unbelievable, the more unbelievable thing was the general absence of catastrophe in my life despite what surrounds me every minute of every day.” Wounded and brought low by nature, Fritz is also healed by her. How do you cope when the site of your happiest memories is also the site of your saddest? Can there be a new normal and, if so, how do you get there? Fritz’s goal in writing this book is to help others in the aftermath of disaster and he has succeeded, in both practical and emotional terms. Originally published in Lone Star Literary Life.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lorilei Gonzales

    I was given an ebook copy of this book for a fair review. Let me begin by saying that this man’s prose is beautiful. Once you get past the newspaper-like report of weather conditions leading up to the wildfire, the writing is so fluid and natural. As I got to know Fritz through the multiple flashbacks (sometimes confusing but provided great backstory), I felt a little jealous of the guy. Hippie potter builds his own home and garden with his own two hands, becomes a great pianist late in life, goe I was given an ebook copy of this book for a fair review. Let me begin by saying that this man’s prose is beautiful. Once you get past the newspaper-like report of weather conditions leading up to the wildfire, the writing is so fluid and natural. As I got to know Fritz through the multiple flashbacks (sometimes confusing but provided great backstory), I felt a little jealous of the guy. Hippie potter builds his own home and garden with his own two hands, becomes a great pianist late in life, goes to college a little late as well and later becomes a judge, and goes on to occupy a few local government positions of importance. But he overcame a lot of obstacles to get where he was: artisans don’t often make a lot of money and early on one of his daughters develops a cognitive disability. And then of course, there’s the huge obstacle of the wildfire. While I braced myself for a harrowing tale of this family of five (plus 3 dogs) running through flames and smoke to escape, it never came. While one daughter, grown and living on her own, almost meets calamity, we never hear about it. Fritz puts himself in danger (not obvious at first, but still quite serious you later learn) to try to save some items, and beats himself up on his choices through a big part of the book. There were some times that I found myself chanting, “First world problems,” in my head over and over. I felt less guilty about not feeling so terrible about their situation since Fritz himself even acknowledges that their family was fortunate that they had good insurance and never went hungry or homeless. (Some might even say that their accommodations during the disaster were better than their original home.) What I do appreciate about this book is his candidness about seeking professional help for his guilt, depression, and anger from the experience, and the resources and tips he provides for people who are caught in or recovering from a natural disaster.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Belinda Elizondo

    One man's journey on the aftermath of a devastating fire that destroyed acres of piney woods and his entire home. He faired much better than others. Didn't fight the fire,he lost his home and all his possessions, but family survived intact and not in danger. He ended up with ptsd, dealing with anger and survivor's guilt. He and his family were able to rebuild and start again. They had insurance and a support system. In a way this book ended up being his therapy out of the anger he experienced. H One man's journey on the aftermath of a devastating fire that destroyed acres of piney woods and his entire home. He faired much better than others. Didn't fight the fire,he lost his home and all his possessions, but family survived intact and not in danger. He ended up with ptsd, dealing with anger and survivor's guilt. He and his family were able to rebuild and start again. They had insurance and a support system. In a way this book ended up being his therapy out of the anger he experienced. He wanted to share that fact that a therapist can be beneficial to men, who don't know that they're suffering.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Deana Dick

    I received a copy of this book from the author and Lone Star Literary Life for an honest review In September 2011, the third worst wildfire in U.S. History and the most destructive in Texas occurred in Bastrop. Among the damage was thirty-four thousand acres that looked like a "Giants Teardrop." The devastation was huge and almost seventeen hundred families had been affected. I remember seeing pictures on the news and crying as I thought of the beautiful land that in an instant was nothing more t I received a copy of this book from the author and Lone Star Literary Life for an honest review In September 2011, the third worst wildfire in U.S. History and the most destructive in Texas occurred in Bastrop. Among the damage was thirty-four thousand acres that looked like a "Giants Teardrop." The devastation was huge and almost seventeen hundred families had been affected. I remember seeing pictures on the news and crying as I thought of the beautiful land that in an instant was nothing more than charred ashes . The people in the community were in shock as they heard that their homes didn't make it. There was many fireman, first responders and others who tirelessly fought against a wildfire that was overtaking homes, and had no sympathy for the path of loss it was leaving, Randy Fritz and his family were among the people in the community that lost everything , from precious paintings, a home they loved and raised a family in, to the land they came to love. He goes into detail about the fire that leaves nothing to the imagination. His descriptions were so vivid , I could almost smell the smoke rising into the sky. The air was hard to breathe as the smoke billowed above with thick layers of ash. He didn't just lose his home and land , he also survived a natural disaster that would take a toll on him over the next several years. He questioned why he had rescued some things from the house , but left other perhaps more meaningful things behind. He tried to be strong for his wife and children, but at some point , he knew he needed someone to talk to. I really appreciated his openness and willingness to share how this affected him and to show readers the effects that PTSD has on people. A traumatic event can trigger many things in a person's life and Randy recognized he needed help to move past the tragedy . The book was so well written as it shared the many people whose lives were affected by a fire that was out of control and in a instant left nothing but charred tress, houses burned beyond recognition and people who had to pick up and start over. One of the most powerful statements he made in the book was, "I an healthy, I live with people who love me , and I them , and I live on a planet, and a community within that planet, that gives me everything my soul requires, even if I sometimes lack the faith or spirit to perceive it. The fire changed none of this, nor could it unless I gave it permission."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kristine Hall

    In Hail of Fire, Randy Fritz shares with readers the profound emotional impact of the 2011 forest fires that devastated Bastrop County, Texas. By the time the fires had swept through nearly fifty-five square miles, over seventeen hundred families had lost their homes, including author Randy Fritz. I expected the family's escape and recovery from the fire to be more central to the story, but it was actually pretty anticlimactic -- they were told to evacuate and they did it, and the close call that In Hail of Fire, Randy Fritz shares with readers the profound emotional impact of the 2011 forest fires that devastated Bastrop County, Texas. By the time the fires had swept through nearly fifty-five square miles, over seventeen hundred families had lost their homes, including author Randy Fritz. I expected the family's escape and recovery from the fire to be more central to the story, but it was actually pretty anticlimactic -- they were told to evacuate and they did it, and the close call that the author had in returning to gather some belongings was only realized much later in the book. Also, where I expected the family to go through real, physical hardship at being homeless and without any possessions, they were immeasurably blessed and minimally inconvenienced. Fritz never downplays their material and physical blessings; rather, he mourns the spiritual losses of an entire ecosystem - and HIS beloved pine trees. Fritz tells his story two ways: he begins by leading up to the fires, but he makes frequent digressions into the past, telling stories about his early days in Bastrop County. There is a great deal of dialogue, and his side stories are interesting and contribute to readers better understanding Fritz and his values. The real meat of Hail of Fire is Fritz's struggle to regain control of his emotional well-being and make some measure of peace with his former friend, fire. When he finally realizes that "grief and loss and regret and anger and guilt cannot be washed away through force of will or stoical silence," the healing begins. Full review on Hall Ways http://kristinehallways.blogspot.com/...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Lively

    The most engaging thing for me about this book was getting to know my neighbors. I grew up around Randy, but he was always kind of a one-dimensional "adult" that I didn't know very well. And I thought I knew Jeri Nell and Walter really well, but there were plenty of surprises. The most important reason I wanted to read this book was to better understand the grief that many people, including my parents, experience/d after losing their homes. It takes an extrovert like Randy to illustrate the inner The most engaging thing for me about this book was getting to know my neighbors. I grew up around Randy, but he was always kind of a one-dimensional "adult" that I didn't know very well. And I thought I knew Jeri Nell and Walter really well, but there were plenty of surprises. The most important reason I wanted to read this book was to better understand the grief that many people, including my parents, experience/d after losing their homes. It takes an extrovert like Randy to illustrate the inner turmoil and pain and bring it into public discourse instead of a private monologue. I still feel fairly detached about the whole situation, but I'm a lot more sympathetic. My favorite moment was when Randy steps out of the story to recommend that all men who identify with strength and independence, seek out therapy in times of emotional crisis. If you are from Bastrop County, this book will engage your sense of community and common ground. If you aren't, it will prepare you for the worst.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Stivers

    A beautifully poignant tale of a 'real' man living with the heart-breaking devastation of a lifetime and the family and community around him who keep him afloat. It's a truthful story and I appreciated that the author didn't hold back the honesty of his emotional and mental anguish and the help he sought with it. Even if his family wasn't destitute, that doesn't matter in the weight of the emotional toll the wildfire took. I thought the flashbacks were lovely and the editing of where those flash A beautifully poignant tale of a 'real' man living with the heart-breaking devastation of a lifetime and the family and community around him who keep him afloat. It's a truthful story and I appreciated that the author didn't hold back the honesty of his emotional and mental anguish and the help he sought with it. Even if his family wasn't destitute, that doesn't matter in the weight of the emotional toll the wildfire took. I thought the flashbacks were lovely and the editing of where those flashbacks appear in the current tale was amazingly well-done. Truly this book was a brilliant, lovely read and I wish the Fritz family all the best. Note: I received a free copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads program and the review above is my own true and unbiased opinion of the book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I received this as a giveaway from Goodreads. Thank you! I felt "so-so" about this book. I think the "story" was hard to get into, partially because it's a first-hand account of the pain of losing everything in a wild fire- so, that's just not something you would necessarily want to be engrossed in- and partially because of some of the glimpses into different times and relationships within the author's life. I did think it is a book that might offer hope to someone going through something simil I received this as a giveaway from Goodreads. Thank you! I felt "so-so" about this book. I think the "story" was hard to get into, partially because it's a first-hand account of the pain of losing everything in a wild fire- so, that's just not something you would necessarily want to be engrossed in- and partially because of some of the glimpses into different times and relationships within the author's life. I did think it is a book that might offer hope to someone going through something similar; or be better understood by someone who lives in an area ore affected by natural disasters than I am. I am happy that things moved in a positive direction for their family. Thanks for the book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    Too many flashbacks. I know they add detail to the story, but I found them very distracting.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    This excellently written book published by Trinity University Press takes you on an engaging and heartfelt journey. I will say no more than to highly recommend you experience this book yourself.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Colette Wills

    Very interesting read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jessie

  13. 4 out of 5

    James R.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

  15. 4 out of 5

    Cecilia Dunbar Hernandez

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jay

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mary

  18. 4 out of 5

    Claire

  19. 4 out of 5

    Phyllis

  20. 4 out of 5

    Trinity University Press

  21. 4 out of 5

    Courtney Mlinar

  22. 5 out of 5

    Randy Fritz

  23. 4 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  24. 5 out of 5

    Karen

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Obrien

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Casias

  27. 5 out of 5

    June

  28. 5 out of 5

    Carla

  29. 4 out of 5

    Craig Dean

  30. 4 out of 5

    Linda

  31. 4 out of 5

    Dr. Cole Marie Mckinnon

  32. 4 out of 5

    Bev

  33. 5 out of 5

    Vykki

  34. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  35. 5 out of 5

    Kay Butz

  36. 5 out of 5

    Pam

  37. 5 out of 5

    Diana

  38. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl Bradley

  39. 4 out of 5

    Pam Mooney

  40. 5 out of 5

    Billy Roper

  41. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

  42. 4 out of 5

    Roxanne

  43. 5 out of 5

    Tammy Pooser

  44. 5 out of 5

    Karen Vandenbosch

  45. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  46. 4 out of 5

    Katharine Adams

  47. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  48. 4 out of 5

    Deanna

  49. 4 out of 5

    Diana Skvorak

  50. 4 out of 5

    Carol

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