Hail of Fire
A Man and His Family Face Natural DisasterA memoir of loss and renewal in the wake of the most destructive wildfire in Texas history
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 ...
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 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 following, as families grieved, struggled to adapt to a their new world, and accepted the destruction of an iconic forest of internationally acclaimed natural beautythe Lost Pines. Neighbors once close worried about or could not find one another, while others discovered new friendships that transcended the boundaries of race, class, and family lineage.
Fritz, a man who previously held the highest elective office in his community, struggled as his wife, Holly, and their youngest daughter, Miranda, 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 emotional toll he would pay and the journey to make sense of it all.
While natural disasters seem increasingly common, deeply personal and redemptive accounts of them are less so. Hail of Fire is an unflinching story of how a man and his tight-knit family found grace after a wildfire took everything. Fritz’s hard-won insights provide inspiration to anyone with a quest to figure out what truly matters, particularly those who have undergone an unexpected and life-changing event and those who love and care for them.
“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
“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
“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
“Fritz viscerally conveys the horror, loss, and regret. ... Fritz’s engaging narrative is interwoven with flashbacks that serve to flesh out his family’s lives and powerfully convey what has been lost. ... The facts are compelling and the science of wildfires as explained in layman’s terms by Fritz is fascinating.”— Lone Star Literary Life
“Puts a human face on what a natural disaster of this magnitude means for a family that unexpectedly lost their home and struggled to pick up the pieces of their lives one hot summer day.”— Environmental History
“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
“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 writes with searing honesty about the traumatic event and its aftermath, and the slow journey to recovery from sudden psychological and material devastation.”— Santa Fe New Mexican
“A rare text, written not from a firefighter’s perspective or through the lens of history, politics, or policy, but from the interior life of a man whose home and community were incinerated in the furious Bastrop County Complex Fire of 2011.”— Journal of Forestry
“Fritz tells his own harrowing story of the vicious wildfire that raged through Bastrop and through his family’s life.”— Austin Monthly
- Carr P. Collins Award for Best Book Nonfiction