Packing to Run

We had a fire in our valley last week.

A big one.

Really big. It was on the news.

Unfortunately, Colorado is not a good place to have any kind of fire, thus the statewide fire bans that come into effect every single year.

It’s very dry here.

Dry grass, dry brush, dry pine needles.

Fires spread fast.

I was the first one to see the smoke, and my dad and I drove down the road to our neighbor’s house to see what was going on. By the time we got there, the fire trucks were on their way, the house was in flames, and so were the trees.We went home to pack.

Thankfully, the wind was almost nonexistent that day—something that’s very unusual for Colorado—and the small breeze we did have was headed toward the fire, pushing it away from us. So we had a little time and some hope that our property would make it through unscathed. Still, I went back to my house from my parents’ and began loading the car. You know, in case we had to make a run for it.

The only problem was, I had no idea what to bring.

See, usually in cases of fire, they say don’t grab anything. Leave it all, just get out. Right?

But that’s a house fire. When you have minutes to escape and risk not getting out at all. This particular fire was half a mile away and moving away from us, and our route out was clear.

And for the life of me, I couldn’t think of what needed to go into my car in case we did need to leave.

My puppy, certainly. And my cat, who’s older than the hills. But I didn’t want to load either of them until right before we drove down the driveway, mostly because my cat hates change and would probably have had a heart attack just to spite me because I made her leave the house. My husband’s safe, of course, with all our legal documents. My computer, with all the scripts and books I’m currently working on. A few flash drives with backups.

And… what?

It hit me then, how replaceable everything in my home was. And how… unimportant. None of it really felt worth saving. I could buy more books. I could plant another apple tree and buy a new desk chair. Nothing in my home was so valuable or irreplaceable that I cared enough to worry whether or not it made it through the fire.

So I packed an overnight bag and went to sit with my sisters and the rest of my family, to watch the smoke and listen to the news and hope that our property and our trees and everything else that was irreplaceable would be okay.

It was an odd feeling. This property is my home. I plan to live here for the greater part of my life, if not the rest of it. My family was safe, so were my pets. The house and all the things I’ve collected in it, those are all replaceable, but the trees, the land, our farm?

Those are the things I’m attached to. The ones I don’t want to leave behind.

The fire burned 21 acres before the fire department put it out. It never turned back toward us, and, weirdly enough, it wasn’t until it was out and over with that we could finally smell the smoke. But it reminded me how fragile our existence can be, and how easily the things that matter can slip away. I’m still sorting through how that made me feel.

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