Burnt: A Memoir of Fighting Fire
Author: Clare Frank
Published: May 23, 2023
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: May 27- June 25, 2023
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars
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. A Memoir of Fighting Fire is an unforgettable memoir from an American original.
In a very male dominated field, the average person doesn’t see many female fire fighters, but Clare Frank is one of those few. Through her memoir we see her go through training and a seasonal fire fighter all the way up to retirement, which gives a 30+ year career span with her becoming second in command of Cal Fire. Also… she got a law degree too!!
Frank is a woman who could do anything it seems. Starting as an underage seasonal fire fighter (She left her birthday off her job application and was lucky enough for that to not be noticed) she always wanted to be a fire fighter, and even worked with her firefighter brother at times. She constantly pushed the envelope and broke down barriers when it didn’t seem possible.
We see how different she was treated as a female, but put a stop to that, making her peers see her who she was: A fire fighter, regardless of her gender. She kept up with the boys and proved herself many times over. We see her overcome obstacles, some which could have been career ending, but she didn’t let it be. She is one tough bad ass as she could really do her job!
During the course of her career we experience Frank’s rise through the ranks while doing a tough job and excelling. We see the highs and lows of her career and just when you think fire can’t get tougher… It does! Fire is brutal and we see it first hand as everyone is affected in various ways. And Frank lived in California which deals with extreme fires yearly.
Bravo to Frank for a well-done career and showing others, especially females, that if you want to do it, you can and will accomplish what you set your goals to be.
Many thanks to the publisher for granting me an arc to read and review in my own time.