My mum grew up in Leura, a beautiful little town in the Blue Mountains where Sydneysiders like to go antiquing. (There is also a place that sells Devonshire Teas and the scones are baked inside little terra cotta flower pots. You need to go there.)
The Blue Mountains are beautiful, but they are also dangerous, particularly during bushfire season. Mum can still remember the fires of ’57, when her own school burnt down. She and the other kids were sent running, there was no orderly evacuation like we’d have today. Mum remembers racing across a wooden bridge when a smaller child dropped his school-case and turned back to get it. Mum yelled “leave it!” as the bridge itself began to burn.’
For most of my childhood, we also lived in bushfire-prone areas and, every summer, Mum had a “bushfire bag” packed and ready to go for if we ever needed to evacuate in a hurry. Around October each year, with the smoke of the first planned burn-offs in the air, we’d pack the bag. It contained a change of clothes for each of us, some basic first aid, and the family photo albums. We all knew our evacuation plans, and who was responsible for the care of which pet.
The Burning House project is inspired by a similar concept. It asks people from all over the world to list what they’d take with them in the event of a fire.
Take a look at some of the lists here: www.theburninghouse.com. Their lists are not exactly as practical as my mum’s, but they are fascinating.