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What to grab first when fleeing a fire

First, try to gather your wits. Don’t let them leave you — leading you to deny that smoke in the air could turn your dwelling to ash. You can’t grab anything if you are out there with a hose, as I was, wetting the walls and roof and eight trees. Denial will keep you from grabbing what you need.

Second, remember that you can’t go nearly naked into the world beyond your abode: For the first weeks I kicked myself for not grabbing clothes beyond what I had on. My favorite clothes! All burned!

Generous people will try to clothe you, but please, keep your coziest threads in a special end of the closet — or in a go-bag, swapped out as you change your taste or size.

Third, grab important papers, of course, but also anything valuable that you have been loaned — the guilt will eat at you with your loss and fester ... of course, you did not mean to lose everything inside four walls, but you will feel responsible anyway for a long time.

Fourth, grab things that you treasure, that cannot be replaced. For me, the loss of my poems and diaries is a small death, so closely were they allied with who I was/am.

Of course, what must really be grabbed, carried, held are not things but each other — grab your beloved animals, grab what gratitude you can that your small or large family is to be relocated, intact. If you are alone, grab yourself and your phone so that you can let far-flung others know you are alive.

Prepare for a fire — videotape your belongings, get as much good insurance as you can, do all you can to reduce global warming. Clear dry grass and debris from near your home. Vote. Vote for the candidates who believe in science. You have experienced first hand the horror of ignoring climate change.

Grab your camera and document the complete devastation — when it is safe to do so.

No, you are not glad. You are not “free.” Your sentimental items will be too many to grab. Not all will have been photographed in the past, not all pictures will be blessedly in the cloud. They will slowly disappear even from your mind and heart.

The first things to grab are many, both physical and metaphorical. This is all I know. Perhaps this list will help someone. I doubt we’ve felt the heat of the last fire.

Melanie A. Rhoades lives in Medford.

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