Icebreakers, long road-trips, and late-night campfire chats sometimes lead to hypothetical, whimsical questions much like this next one. Maybe it is a question that you have been asked before.
Which three items would you save if your home suddenly caught on fire?
I have asked this question, been posed this question, and have answered this question multiple times – but never did I expect to live out this hypothetical scenario.
It was a normal day of work at Wet Planet Whitewater. This summer, the summer of 2014, had been exceptionally dry. I remember sitting down to my turkey sandwich on my lunch break and picking up my cell phone to listen to a couple of new voicemails. I listened to the recording of my friend’s voice as he said, “Hey Hayley, it’s Chris. I’m across the river in Hood and there’s a giant forest fire pretty close to your house.. Just wanted to give you a heads up and make sure everything is okay. Call me”. The second voicemail was of the same concern from my friend Nicole; reporting the forest fire, making sure Clay and I were okay, and suggesting I go grab whatever is important to me before things get crazy.
Five minutes later I was flying down highway 141, hoping to reach my house before the flames did. Meanwhile, Clay was guiding a raft down the White Salmon Narrows when Jeff, a friend and fellow guide, noticed and jokingly said, “Hey Clay, it looks like your house is burning down!”
Police officers and firemen crews had Highway 14 – the road leading up to my house – blocked off. I frantically signaled to an officer and explained that the big red house was mine – the one situated just next to the flames. He allowed me to pass as I pulled off the side of the road, threw the car into park, and bolted up the stairs.
House. About. To. Burn. Down. What do I grab?! Without a duffle bag, I grabbed my sleeping bag to use as a sack and I threw in my new and precious dry top, my laptop and hard drive, several clothes, and a framed photo of Clay and me. I did a quick sweep of the house, making sure I had the necessities, when Clay bolted up the steps to grab his belongings as well. Fresh off the river, he had sprinted over to our house a mere 150 yards from the takeout of the Lower Lower White Salmon. He collected his valuables, too, and we raced down the steps, throwing our belongings in the truck and anticlimactically heading back to work.
Our roommate, Travis, continually updated us on the status of the fire and our house. For several hours there were no significant changes: helicopters were still bailing water from the White Salmon and dousing the flames, and firemen were still on site with their hoses. Still unable to return to our house after work, Clay and I met up with our roommates at our favorite burger joint, Killer Burger, to wait out the situation as we were all currently houseless. One burger later and a few drinks later, we were notified that we were able to return home! The fire had been contained and men would be on watch throughout the night, hoping to put out the small remaining flames.
As we returned home, I noticed a KOIN news truck parked outside of our home. With my other roommates being uninterested in doing an interview, I happily volunteered myself.
So, after living out this age-old question, the three items that I grab when my house is about to be swept up in flames are; clothes, my laptop, and my dry top. And, if I have the time I will cheat and grab a fourth item: a framed photo of myself with my honey.
For anyone hoping to catch my moment of fame in the KOIN interview, you can find it here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoq3oNgk4tE&feature=youtu.be