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Burnt: A Memoir of Fighting Fire (Hardcover)
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Burnt is a captivating and “evocative” (Erin Brockovich) memoir of trailblazing and firefighting from California’s first—and only—female chief of fire protection, a pioneering woman in a male-dominated field.
Burnt is a book about finding your calling, even if it’s an unexpected one. It’s about finding your home, even if you aren’t immediately welcomed. And it’s about reaching the top and making a difference, even if you don’t look like you fit in.
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 Frank’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 mediocre managers, 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 firehouses, on daily calls, and along to gigantic wildfires 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.
About the Author
Clare Frank started firefighting in California at 17 and was promoted up the ranks, becoming the state’s first and only female chief of fire protection. Along the way, she earned a BS in fire administration, an MFA in creative writing, and a JD. She has lectured at colleges, universities, and state and national fire conferences, and lives near Lake Tahoe with her husband and always a dog or two. Burnt is her first book.
“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
“Extraordinary. . .a fascinating, boots-on-the-ground account of her storied career as a firefighter. . . . she takes readers behind the scenes in a play-by-play that is as riveting as it is informative. Every bit of ‘Burnt’ is interesting. . .”
— San Francisco Chronicle
“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.”
— Shelf Awareness
“A vigorous and quite timely memoir . . . Throughout the book, Frank is energetic and inspirational, especially to women considering work in the field.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“The path to becoming a firefighter is arduous, especially for a young woman who must contend with gear scaled to fit men, as well as colleagues who believe women should not do this work watching for any misstep. None of this stopped Clare Frank, who recounts her climb from underage rookie to one of California’s highest-ranking fire chiefs.”
— Christian Science Monitor, Top 10 Books of May
“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 starts as a personal love letter to firefighting. By the end it also becomes a cri de coeur, a battle cry.”
— New York Post
“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