Fire! What to take?
Kids, husband, book...what else?
(Shawn Benjamin)
“Everyone in the houses come out, you need to evacuate now!” The voice on the loud-hailer broke through my sleep with an urgency supported by the smell of burning in the air. Sirens were howling past, as fire engines made their way up the slopes of Devil’s Peak.

I sat in the dark, watching the red glow on the mountain, waiting to see if the evacuation call would reach our house. What should we take with us?

The kids, obviously, each other.

The Fire File, a box file with all our official documents including insurance, passports etc.

My work laptop and handbag with cellphone and wallet.

I was stuck. Was it really worthwhile to delay evacuating my family for any other item?

Memories on paper
My sister-in-law arrived from higher up the mountain, where they had already been told to move out. All she had grabbed was her dogs, passport and a photograph of her late parents.

Should I have thought of that? What about all those baby pictures of my children. I probably don’t look at them more than once a year – usually when the kids have a “Who am I?” project. But I would miss them if I could never see them again.

What about the piles of books I have dragged from home to home for 20 years? I imagine my home without the collection of Jane Austens I have reread a dozen times; and the dictionary given to me by a friend for my 21st birthday.

Suddenly I guiltily remember the goldfish in their bowl. The practicality of a dash to safety with fishy water sloshing on my lap doesn’t appeal. But how could I leave them behind to boil?

I remember seeing a newspaper picture of a man running from the flames clutching his printer. I definitely don’t love my printer enough to do that. But I might be caught clutching the two teddy bears that are still with us from when my teen was a baby.

What would you save? What’s worth the extra second?

Read more by Adele Hamilton

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