Verbatim Column

If your home was on fire and you only had time to grab 3 things, what would they be?

When was the last time you considered this anguishing question? One responder mentioned being grateful for this exercise, because if this scenario plays out, she now has a plan. Another responder has first-hand experience with this awful-to-imagine situation.

In this section, adopted from the familiar “Heard on the Street” format, we offer our responders a chance to answer the question posed in the title. These are their replies reported verbatim.



Assuming all my family members made it out OK, I’d grab the safe with important papers, my computer and my Fender Stratocaster. I may even make a dash back in to save the Ibanez semi-hollow, Alvarez 12-string and Wilson Blade tennis racquets!

Bruce Swiecicki

NPGA (National Propane Gas Association)

Tinley Park, Illinois


The mountains behind my house were on fire in January of 2014 (The Colby Fire).  We had just moved in 5 months previously.  My husband woke me up with the news that the hillsides were on fire.  I got dressed and gathered the dogs (food & leashes). Then I panicked. I was crying and going from room to room trying to figure out what I should pack in my car.  The family photos and important documents made it into the car.  Thankfully, there was a helicopter water drop as the flames were coming over the wall and our house was saved.

Julie Johnson

Ted Johnson Propane

Baldwin Park, California


My dog, my laptop, my wife.  Not necessarily in that order.

Steve Abbate

Cetane Associates

Kent, Connecticut


The number one answer to this question is simple. I would grab my little dog Pgi (peegee). My true heart medicine.  •  If I was strong enough and capable my second grab would be my dining room table. It was the table that sat in the back dining room of my mother’s Italian restaurant. It was her mother’s and now mine. If only that Beautiful old table could talk! It has probably had more stories, both true and embellished told around it from across the country and foreign lands then I could ever put in a book. Truth be told, everyone went to my mother for advice, and in the midst of that advice, there were probably more sins exposed than in a Catholic confessional.  •   Number three would be, simply grab as many family pictures as I could off the wall on the way out the door.  •  Memories over material objects will always win the day for me.

Judy Taranovich

Proctor Gas

Proctor, Vermont


First & foremost, I would make sure my husband is with me and nobody else is in the house.  •  Second, I would grab my purse that would have my cell phone, keys, etc.  •  Third, I would try to get our vehicles out of the garage and driveway if time permitted.  •  While I have many mementos, pictures and other items I would hate to lose in a fire, the bottom line is getting out of a fire safely with your family is more important than trying to grab possessions.

Rosie Buschur

McMahan’s Bottle Gas

Dayton, Ohio


Assuming that my family and pets are already safely out of the house, I would grab a pocket watch passed down from my Great-Great Grandfather, the computer which contains many of our family photos and a small desk which was hand-made by my Grandfather.

Jason Soulon

Westmor Industries

Shawnee, Kansas


  1. The Cat
  2. My Purse (I’m very practical – it has everything I need in it)
  3. Something of my Mother’s… this was the hardest one as the item I would like to take, the Baby Grand piano she left me, is a little too heavy – but nothing else immediately came to mind. I finally realized I should probably take one of her coats! My Mom was known far and wide for her amazing collection of beautiful coats, and since I now own a few of them, it would only be right that I run out of my burning home, clutching my cat, my purse over my shoulder, beautifully dressed in my Mother’s coat.

Leslie Woodward

Fairview Fittings

Oakville, Ontario


The amount of time I might have to grab three things would certainly influence my decisions. Obviously, any living thing would be the first priority. After that, I would want my Harley’s, guitars and laptop bag. In spite of a fire at least I would have transportation, a hobby to torture myself with and the ability to work.

Boyd H. McGathey

Energy Distribution Partners

Parkville, Missouri


  1. My computer!! Hands down!!  I have backups but I see too many time backups fail, I would want to be sure I have it.
  2. My backup hard drives!!  These are backups from old computers.  They have older photos, older documents on them.  Now that I think of this, I need to put them somewhere better than where they are NOW!!
  3. Items from my safe.  Depending on the severity of the fire, I wouldn’t trust the safe to hold up. This safe holds some items that are irreplaceable!

Susan Peterson

Rural Computer Consultants

Bird Island, Minnesota


  1. My Wife of 44 years would be the very first thing I would grab! She would gather all of our family picture albums. With 5 adult children and 6 grandkids, all of our important events, memorabilia, and cherished memories are with our
  2. Neither my wife nor I are big “jewelry people,” but over the years, we have collected numerous watches, rings, and sentimental hand me downs from family members.
  3. I thought I would grab my personal computer, but then I realized everything is all backed up in the cloud, so as a result I chose my cell phone, the “nucleus” of all my communications, so I could call the fire department!

Jerry Schimmel

P3 Propane Safety

Cumberland, Rhode Island


I would grab my husband, my cat and my necklace with my Father’s picture and my Mother-in-law’s charm on it. Everything else could be replaced.

Laurie Irish-Jones

Irish Propane

Buffalo, New York


I’m making an assumption that my family, including our three dogs are safely outside the fire. The three things I would grab are, Chaz’s ashes, my kids’ comfort item (blanket or stuffed animal), and our printed family photos.

Lauren Clark


Toledo, Ohio


1, 2, 3…NOT EASY

I’m glad to report that my husband—who is often asked the same questions as those posed to our colleagues—answered that I would be his number one choice. I suggested he assume that I was safely grabbing my 3 things since I can only visualize us making this hypothetical life-saving dash together. As many of our responders pointed out, saving life is the first priority while a sentimental, irreplaceable piece of memorabilia also makes the top 3 list. Treasured photo albums and important documents may not make the cut as they are likely to be securely stored in digital format. We may make our choices differently during the establishment of an escape plan thanks to technology that has made the load lighter due to the cloud having our backs.


Nancy Coop, Cetane Associates


This column was first published in the June 2021 issue of Butane-Propane News.

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— Steve Lombardi, Brodeur’s Oil, Moosup, CT