So many people have said to me, over these past four weeks, what they'd grab from their house if it was burning.
"The kids, the pets, the legal documents, the computer, the laptop, the phone, the paintings, the musical instruments, my treasures..." The list goes on.
But let me tell you something.
You won't have time.
I live in Victoria, Australia. I've lived where the bushfires burn. I am no stranger to the devastation fire brings and leaves in its wake. I used to consider myself fire wary - I was careful, so careful. I wouldn't have unattended candles in my homes. I didn't like cooking with gas because of naked flames. I love wood heaters but I was paranoid about getting them correctly installed and working properly and ALWAYS guarded. I would never go to bed unless the fire was banked and the screens in place. I was careful, so careful.
And I believed I was prepared. Smoke detectors in every room. Fire plan near the back door. Emergency contacts, treasured items, legal documents all in a briefcase ready to go in case of bushfire. On my list of "Things To Buy Next" were a fire extinguisher and a fire blanket. I never got around to getting them.
I never got around to grabbing that briefcase either. It was all I could do to get my shoes. Forget the rest. There was NO TIME. Simply no time. From the minute that first small fire started it was a race against time. And time won. The fire won. It took off in seconds and became an impossible blaze. In minutes the front half of my house was engulfed in roaring flames and thick, choking, acrid smoke which twisted and turned and roared itself - through the rest of my house, it poured. And the sound, oh my god, the sound. It will haunt me for a long time.
I had no time to go into my burning house and retrieve my briefcase, my computer, my treasures. I was fortunate that I had enough sense when I picked up my mobile phone to call 000 to grab my bag, laptop and shoes. I barely had time to do that. I couldn't look for my cat, I spent hours in agony worrying and tormenting myself with images and thoughts of if he hadn't got out. I had no time. No time at all.
Hindsight is a curse. IMHO
But the next house I live in permanently WILL have smoke detectors over every door. WILL have fire extinguishers front and back (and I WILL take lessons in learning to use them so the fear and the terror won't leave me unable to use them, like what happened when I tried to remember how to use a phone that fateful day). I WILL have smoke blankets. I WILL have a plan of escape. My legal documents will now live in a bank. My treasured items... well, they're all gone and I'm 55 years old - I can't replace those memories. My photographs are being uploaded and stored in the cloud and shared amongst servers.
I will take steps to ensure that should another disaster ever befall me, I am prepared as I can be.
But, four weeks on, one thing I am so grateful for is that I can sit here and tell you how grateful I am to be here.
Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed to my "Caravan Fund" on GoFundMe. If you could please, please keep sharing the link I would be so thankful. If 5000 people donated $1 each, I would reach my goal. If 1000 people donated the cost of a cup of coffee ($5) I would reach my goal. I can't do it without you.
Much Love, Many Blessings