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HAIL OF FIRE
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 of what happened to Randy Fritz, an artist turned politician turned public policy leader, and his family during and after the Bastrop County Complex fire in September 2011. Combining a searing account of the fire as it grew to apocalyptic strength with universal themes of loss and grief, Fritz gives a first-person account of the emotional turmoil that comes with rebuilding 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 following, as families grieved, struggling to adapt to a new world and accept the destruction of an iconic forest of internationally acclaimed great natural beauty—the Lost Pines. Neighbors once close worried for each other, while others discovered new friendships that transcended the boundaries of race, class, and family lineage. Fritz struggled as his wife and daughter tried to make sense of their losses. He never imagined the impact this disaster would have on them individually and as a family, as well as the visceral toll he would pay in the journey to make sense of it all.
Hail of Fire is an unflinching story of how a man and his tight-knit family found grace after losing everything. Fritz’s hard-won insights provide inspiration to anyone on the search for what truly matters, particularly those who have undergone an unexpected and life-changing event and those who love and care for them.
HARDCOVER BOOK DETAILS
Size: 6 x 9
Published: Jun 2015
Published: Jun 2015
Praise for HAIL OF FIRE
“If you’ve ever loved a tree—or a person—do yourself a favor: read this book, because at its core love in all its splendor and sadness is what it’s about.” — Jan Jarboe Russell, author of The Train To Crystal City
“The power of the book is in the recovery…. [Fritz] finds “mindfulness and acceptance” and the strength to make a fresh start in a place with haunted memories.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Randy Fritz has written a mesmerizing account of the Bastrop fire, the worst in Texas history and one of the worst ever nationally. The heart of Hail of Fire is how an everyday citizen survives the angst and awfulness of a natural disaster. Highly recommended!” — Douglas Brinkley, author of The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast
“A roller coaster ride…. brutally honest, intimate and affecting.” — Austin American-Statesman
“In this painstakingly written story of ruin and renewal, Fritz eloquently reflects on how the events of the Bastrop fire of September 2011 and their aftermath transformed him, his family and the lives of their closest friends and neighbors.” — San Antonio Express-News
“As Fritz and his family deal with shock, instability, and the stress involved in trying to move forward, their perseverance and strength, and that of those around them, demonstrate that life definitely can rise from the ashes.” — Booklist
“Though the title of his memoir of the 2011 Bastrop wildfire might suggest that readers will be placed right in the middle of one of the worst conflagrations in Texas history, this Lost Pines resident is more interested in what followed: the displacement of his family after the loss of their house, and the fraught debate over whether to rebuild or walk away from their longtime home.” — Texas Monthly
“Every time a fire destroys a family’s home, the media shows up right away to cover the disaster and report what’s happened. But not very often does the media ever tell you what happens after the fire because most victims don’t have the emotional strength to speak out while the smoke is still in the air. This story is told through the eyes of Randy Fritz who experienced the third worst wildfire in modern U.S. history. He tells the story of grief, loss and how his family rebuilt their lives after the calamitous event.” — San Francisco Book Review
Fritz is at his best when he recounts the impact the fire had on his own psyche, with raw reflections on the difficult time he had coping and how his depression became difficult for his family. — Foreword Reviews
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.
With the tag-team help of a malicious sun that baked Central Texas dry for months and a tropical storm that uncoiled from the Gulf of Mexico with a hateful wind instead of rain, the fire that ravaged Bastrop County—my home for more than thirty years—on a holiday weekend in 2011 left behind a scorched and violated landscape shaped like a giant teardrop.
The fire started in two separate locations as people were returning home from church or finishing their lunches. In each case, a dead tree on private property blew into a power line, and the resulting sparks lit the bounty of fuel on the ground—a desiccated carpet of pine needles and twigs that were like gasoline vapor waiting for a match.
The wind curling off Tropical Storm Lee’s dry side energized the embryonic flames. In short order, as they skittered along the ground, vaulted from tree to tree, and sprinted from house to house, the fires began shooting off flaming pieces of bark or wood, like the sparks of a campfire, except the embers weren’t innocent or nostalgic.
As these fiery hailstones prepped the drought-stricken forest for the arrival of each fire, yet another one began five miles southwest of the first two before the event was an hour old. By the time the conflagration crossed Highway 71—one of the major arterials connecting two of the nation’s largest cities— they had merged into a colossus, and a thousand homes were burning or about to be.
The teardrop-shaped fire destroyed more homes, and upended more lives, than any other fire in Texas history. It reached a level of intensity that fire experts have scientifically confirmed only a handful of times before.
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Randy Fritz is the former chief operating officer of the Texas Department of State Health Services, the state’s public and mental health agency. He helped coordinate the state’s response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and led the team that implemented the Children’s Health Insurance Program in Texas. Fritz lives in Bastrop, Texas, with his wife, Holly, and their youngest daughter, Miranda.
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