Note: This video contains some profanity.
Just one day after his house and everything in it burned to the ground, Santa Rosa cartoonist Brian Fies bought some cheap paper, Sharpies, and highlighters, and got to work reporting what he and his wife had seen the night of the fires.
The resulting cartoon came quickly, with more raw edges than Fies' usual standards, but it was undeniably, unflinchingly honest.
“I still have that newspaper reporter bug — that I’ve got to tell the story,” Fies says of the comic's urgency, which included Fies returning the next morning to find his house in Larkfield destroyed. “I was an eyewitness to something very unusual, and I felt like I just had to report it.”
The response was massive. In the week after the fire, an online version of Fies' comic, A Fire Story, was viewed by over half a million people.
Now, we at KQED Arts bring his story to life in the video above. With moving animation, and with narration straight from Fies and his wife, Karen, A Fire Story also includes a special epilogue from the artist about the long process of recovery, and the stability of home.
Most meaningful for Fies is the comfort and understanding A Fire Story has brought to others — people like his neighbor, whose house was also lost to the fire, and who reads it to her grandchildren every night at their request.
“It really helps the kids process some of that trauma of what happened to this house and place they loved. And kind of reassures them, not now, but someday... we are going to be okay.” —Gabe Meline