Graphic novelist Brian Fies documented his family's escape from the wildfire that destroyed their Santa Rosa home.

He lost his home to the wildfire and poured his pain into a web comic

Updated 1:03 PM ET, Wed October 18, 2017

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Story highlights

  • Brian Fies and his wife lost their Santa Rosa home in the California wildfires
  • They had 15 minutes to save what they could and evacuate
  • Fies documented their experience in a comic

(CNN)Brian Fies sat down with some Sharpies and some paper to process his pain the way he knows best.

He began to draw.
The result is "A Fire Story," an 18-page web comic that recounts the heart-wrenching devastation the California wildfires has wrought.
It details how 50 mph winds turned the Tubbs Fire into a "napalm tsunami." How the blaze devoured his family's home in Santa Rosa, leaving it a heap of burned ash. How all that's left for survivors like him is to inventory prized possessions they'll never see again.
"I was just compelled to do it and I did it really quickly," he told CNN.
Fies (pronounced 'Feez') is a graphic novelist, one of the best in his field. A few years ago, when his mom was battling terminal cancer, he processed his grief by writing the web comic "Mom's Cancer." It won an Eisner Award, one of the comic world's highest achievements.
    Now he's had to do it all over again.

    The web comic begins when his wife woke up smelling smoke.
    Fies said that when they went to bed the night before, the fire was 30 miles away.
    "It wasn't in our minds at all. It was just another fire over the hill in another county," he said.
    When they realized what was happening, Fies and his wife Karen grabbed their dog and cat, important papers, computer backups, photo albums and other keepsakes. They also saved Boo Boo Bear and Piglet, their twin daughters' favorite childhood stuffed animals.
    "We had about 15 minutes to throw our lives in the back of our car," he said.

      At dawn, he went back to check on the house. He parked near a police roadblock and walked into his neighborhood. He wasn't really supposed to be there, but no one stopped him.
      Fies described "inhaling other people's lives" as he trudged through the smoke.