Andrea Rondeau is the editor of the Cowichan Valley Citizen and the Lake Cowichan Gazette.

Column: Don’t make me use my evacuation plan

What would you grab if you had seconds? What would you take if you had a couple of hours?

Like everyone else in the province recently, newsroom conversation has drifted to the wildfires engulfing parts of the province, and what we would do if it was us.

I like to be prepared (I’ve got an earthquake supply box ready at home) and the Fort McMurray fires last year brought into sharp focus the unpredictability and power of something like that once it gets going.

Fortunately, up to this point, the most contact I’ve ever had with a significant wildfire is the smoke that travels hundreds of kilometres and hazes up the sky. Two years ago we had ash fall and an orange sun for a couple of days.

My home has never been threatened. But what if?

That’s what had me talking to a colleague in the newsroom Monday afternoon.

What would you grab if you had seconds? What would you take if you had a couple of hours?

He hadn’t ever thought about what his plan would be, but I had my priorities well thought out.

The worst part of these kinds of disasters to me (aside, of course, from any loss of human life) are the animals in danger.

It makes my heart contract to hear from the folks who weren’t allowed to get their goats or horses, dogs or cats.

Without a doubt, after the people are taken care of, the first thing I would grab are my cats. Then my important papers like my birth certificate and such. Then my computer and photo albums (which I hope to get digitized so I only have to grab the laptop).

My mom had a great suggestion: make sure you have a neighbour who’s around quite a bit who has a key to your home who could grab your pets for you if you were stuck outside an evacuation zone and officials wouldn’t let you through.

If there’s a little more time I’d grab a suitcase and pack a few clothes and toiletries.

A great idea I heard from someone who evacuated from the Interior was to take a video of your place, so you have something to show the insurance company when it comes to replacing your belongings.

Because the truth is that most of my stuff can be replaced. Thinking about this kind of scenario really brings home the acknowledgement of the things that can’t.

We’ve got pretty tough hides in the news business.

But I defy anyone not to feel something for what the evacuees are going through. I don’t envy my colleagues who are having to cover the story and also worry about their own homes.

So when we print, for the umpteenth time, that you should obey the campfire ban, not toss your cigarette butt out the car window, and maybe forgo the ATV ride through the dry grass, it’s not just another PSA, at least not to me.

It’s a personal plea: don’t make me use my evacuation plan. I don’t want you to have to use yours, either.

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