Burnt: A Memoir of Fighting Fire
A captivating memoir of trailblazing and firefighting from a pioneering woman in a male-dominated field
When Clare Frank was 17 years old, she became a firefighter in Northern California. Clare was five foot two and officially too young to join the service—she left her birthdate blank on her paperwork, hoping no one would notice. And she didn’t look like her peers, who sported an Adam’s apple and a mustache. But her brother was a firefighter and loved it, so she thought she’d try it out, too. Very soon, she knew she had found her calling.
Burnt is Clare’s inspiring, richly detailed, and open-hearted account of an extraordinary life in fire. It chronicles the transformation of a young adult determined to prove her mettle into a scarred and sensitive veteran, grappling with the weight of her duties as chief of fire protection—one of the highest-ranking women in Cal Fire history—while record-setting fires engulf her home state. Mentors and managing, funerals and scandal, pickup basketball, car crashes, and always fire—no one has written about this world, from this perspective, like Clare Frank. She masterfully mixes irreverence and awe, taking readers inside station houses, on daily calls, and along on wildfire campaigns where antics and dark humor balance terrifying risk, trauma, and a sense of almost holy responsibility. Burnt: A Memoir of Fighting Fire is an unforgettable memoir from an American original.
Praise for Burnt: A Memoir of Fighting Fire
“In this evocative account of life in the firehouse, Clare Frank portrays the risks firefighters face and the stakes that are now higher than they’ve ever been. She does so with grit and a healthy sense of humor. A must-read.”—Erin Brockovich
“A vigorous and quite timely memoir . . . Throughout the book, Frank is energetic and inspirational, especially to women considering work in the field.”
“A heart-racing, heartfelt story that will make readers laugh, cry, and consider what matters most in life. . . .Frank's memoir is packed not only with adrenaline but with sensitivity, thoughtfulness, and creativity. Beware the impulse to race through these 300-plus pages in a single sitting. . . .This exceptional memoir shows wide emotional range in spanning the complexities of firefighting and fire prevention in California and the American West, gender issues, family, work, love, and loss.”
“Good memoirs can introduce intriguing individuals and provide access to rarefied pursuits. Author Frank manages both in this account of her fiercely independent life and 30-plus years as a firefighter in California . . . The action scenes are compelling; there are hard-won victories and excruciating losses, and Frank emerges as a relatable and thoroughly human hero.”
“Burnt is part fire story, part family saga, part diary of a woman rising in a ‘man’s world,’ and it is entirely engrossing. If natural disasters, especially wildfires, are to reshape both where and how we live, then we had better listen to the stories of the people who fight them and the price they pay. This is one of those stories and it’s damn good.”—Kevin Hazzard, author of American Sirens and A Thousand Naked Strangers
“Ominous orange skies and smoke-choked cities: The wildfire crisis is here. Burnt takes you inside. From dirt firefighter to leading thousands, Clare Frank offers a real, humorous, one-of-a-kind front-row seat to wildfires and those who fight them.”—Caroline Godkin, executive director of the Climate and Wildfire Institute
“With an insightful, clear-eyed wit, Burnt tells the compelling story of Clare Frank’s long career fighting fire. Frank is scrappy and courageous, wise and vulnerable—a serious badass with a reverence for fire, an irreverent sense of humor, and a mouth that strings together swear words with the best of them. As Frank shatters glass ceilings of the fire world ranks, you will be laughing out loud at firehouse antics, crying on heartbreaking calls, sitting on the edge of your seat during harrowing adventures, and cheering her on as she finds kinship, joy, and a greater sense of herself within this unconventional calling. In the end, Burnt attempts to answer the question of why we love what we love and will speak to anyone who has defied the odds by working hard for what they wanted, following a mysterious and lonely impulse of delight. This is one of the best memoirs I’ve read in a long time.”—Suzanne Roberts, author of Animal Bodies: On Death, Desire, and Other Difficulties
“Clare Frank’s memoir, Burnt, is a wonderful reminder of how those who fall in love with the intensity and magic and deadliness of flames are always best at fighting fire. I was transported back to my childhood, when my brother and I chased wildfires on our bikes, to riverbeds and mountains near our home, to see the towering flames and smell the smoke. Frank’s writing is vivid and beautiful, and her stories of the structure of firefighting lives will resonate with those who love a great story of passion.”—Susan Straight, author of Mecca and In the Country of Women