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The Burning Question

I am endlessly fascinated with the stories that people tell of devastating fires.  Maybe it’s the quick-as-lightning loss of a lifetime of building, or perhaps the utter finality that fire consumes all things.  When it comes to natural disasters, some things can be saved from the rubble, dried out from the flood, or retrieved from blowing winds.  With a fire, though, all is reduced to its most basic elements, never to be reassembled.

Foster Huntington, in his online project and new book The Burning House: What People Would Take if the House Was on Fire, offers a mesmerizing look at the objects people hold most sacred.  His artful portrayal of these collections and the accompanying lists are a kind of poetry, a singing tribute to what a person holds most dear.  And of course, it begs the question, “What would YOU take?”.


I remember a neighbor’s house fire when I was a child, and her frustration that all she thought to heave out the door before fleeing the flames was a 50-pound sack of beans.  She had no idea how she hurled it over her shoulder, or why.  I think most of us have an idea of what we would like to take with us – the family photo albums, a childhood treasure, a sensible pair of shoes – but in the heat of the moment, what would we really seize upon and escape with?

What would you take?  What might you take on “accident”?

6 thoughts on “The Burning Question

  1. Our house got burnt in 1994…i have a post on it (The fire of 94), and we lost everything…there was no time to get anything because it happened in the middle of the night…my parents and siblings barely got out alive…

    • I wonder if Foster Huntington had any photos of PEOPLE in his book??? That would be the real treasure to save from the fire. Thank goodness you made it out safely!

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