What Will You Do When Your House Burns Down?

We live fairly close to a major street, so we hear fire engines, ambulances and other sirens pretty often.  We’ve gotten used to them, so we generally don’t even hear them.

Unless they stop.

That means something is happening close by, because the siren stopped close by.  So we go out on our patio to see if we can discover where the action is.

Last night, we ignored the sirens. 

But then there were more sirens.  And more.  And still more. They all stopped fairly close, so we knew something was happening. 

Fullerton fireWhen we went out on the patio, we smelled the smoke and saw the orange glow a few blocks away.  It wasn’t until we watched the news that we learned about the four-alarm carport fire in a two-story apartment complex that spread quickly through several apartments before engulfing the roof in flames.

Residents told reporters of having little time to react, so they grabbed one or two things and ran barefoot.  Pets were handed over the balconies to bystanders, and people fought to escape.  It happened so quickly that people didn’t have time to think – only to react. 

No one was injured.  But some people lost everything.

That made for an interesting dinner conversation tonight. 

We’ve heard the question for years: If your house was on fire, what would you take with you?

Because we’ve heard it so often, we’ve gotten complacent with our response.  “Well, family members, of course.  Then pets.  Photo albums would come next.  We’d grab a purse or wallet, credit cards, and things that had special meaning.

In other words, we would grab things that were irreplaceable.

But that’s making an assumption: We would have time to think.

Last night, those apartment residents didn’t have time to think.  By the time they realized what was happening, it was too late to grab anything.  For them, it was just getting everyone out safely.

Deep down inside, we think it could never happen to us:

  • The house will never burn.
  • We won’t have an accident.
  • We’re not old enough for a heart attack or stroke.
  • Our hard drive won’t crash.
  • Crises happen to other people.

But we’ve had a lot of near misses, where we’ve left the stove on accidently, or gotten a napkin too close to a candle, or leaned a little too far over on a ladder.  We caught it in time – and we assume we always will.

Whenever we have an earthquake here in California that’s big enough to get our attention, Home Depot has a display of earthquake preparedness supplies by the front door within the hour.  An hour later, they’re sold out.

We can’t live in fear of what could happen.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to prepare.

What would you do today if you knew your house would burn tomorrow?

What would you do today if you knew your computer was going to crash in the morning?

What would you do today if you knew you would have a heart attack tonight?

So, there’s no deep lesson in today’s post.  That fire just got me thinking, and it reminded us that there’s value in those occasional discussions.

Have a dinner conversation with someone important to you.  Really talk about what you would grab if there was a fire – what matters most?

When you decide what you would take, it puts all your other possessions in perspective.


(Note: Someone brought it to my attention that depending on where you’re reading this, there might not be an obvious place to leave your comments.  I’ll work on fixing that – but in the meantime, scroll to the top of this post, and you’ll find a “Leave a Comment” link right under the title.)