Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Grabbing the gist of life in a wildfire evacuation | TheUnion.com
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Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Grabbing the gist of life in a wildfire evacuation

Hollie Grimaldi-Flores
John Hart/jhart@theunion.com | The Union

On Saturday, my husband and I were traveling to my mother-in-law’s house near San Francisco, when I received a text from a friend telling me about the Lowell Fire.

As I looked on maps to see where it was located, we realized there was a remote chance our home could be in danger (it was not).

We could have turned around but decided we had the truly valuable contents of our house on hand. We were together.



I know how sappy that sounds, but it is true. When we began running through the list of what we would take if we had to evacuate, we went first to the sentimental and secondly to the practical.

As evacuations did go into effect for some of our community later in the evening, we found we were not alone in what we valued. Friends on Facebook and other social media listed the items they chose to save. Some quoted here:




— “Pictures. Passport. Mom’s ashes and letters she wrote shortly before she died, laptop, (expensive) makeup and favorite shoes. In car. Proverbial question answered.”

— “… Contemplating the evacuation ‘list,’ I have learned two things: one, I have a ton of insignificant crap; two, beautiful memories make up so much of my essentials and those cannot go up in flames. Packed: my grandmother’s ring I wore in my wedding, my computers, paintings my father-in-law did, a painting I received for my wedding, wedding dress, ‘Just Married’ pin from our Disney honeymoon, a stack of old pics, a few pieces of jewelry and a friend’s book I borrowed years ago and she let me know how special it was. I think it is time to return it “

— “Passports, birth certificates, boxes and boxes of photos, the last two years of business documents, the children’s yearbooks. I packed everything that I needed to cook that special dinner I promised my son. We packed our paddleboards and husband’s drums. Dogs beds. Oh, and a couple of pictures off the wall. The rest was surprisingly easy to leave.”

It is what we know in our heart of hearts. What is important is the safety of those we love. We will grab the essentials, the sentimental, the irreplaceable photos, a family memento, but all of the accumulated material goods fall short.

In terms of the accumulated material goods, my husband would dearly miss his piano and his grandfather clock. I would miss … (I thought about this for a while) … nothing!

I let go of my attachment to furniture after the end of my first significant relationship. My independence had much more value than the sofa or the stereo (though I did grab my favorite albums and a cookbook!).

So it does beg the question surrounding the hot pursuit of the almighty dollar. How many of our precious days are spent trying to earn enough to buy more than enough?

The need for the newest car, the biggest house with the flattest screen TV and the finest china — only to realize, when push comes to shove, that we will walk away from all of it in exchange for a picture our kid drew in the first grade or a decades-old photo from a never-to-be duplicated family vacation.

Time is running out for all of us. I am reminded to slow down, to appreciate those around me and to let them know they are loved.

It turns out I am much more sentimental than I am practical. I realize that, at the very least, I need to “round up” some of those old videos and photos so they are easily packed in case of an emergency.

According to Cal Fire, you can remember what to take by thinking of the letter “P.” The obvious — people and pets — but also be sure you have paperwork. Beyond passports, think about insurance documents, birth certificates, phone numbers, prescriptions including eye glasses, personal computers or at least your back-up hard drive (we all do that, don’t we?), all your plastic — credit cards, debit cards and cash if you have any! And, of course, pictures and irreplaceable memorabilia.

The skill and dedication of those who fight fire cannot be underestimated. As we are now firmly in fire season, we can all hope we survive another tinder-dry California summer intact.

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is the business development manager at The Union. Contact her at hgflores@theunion.com


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