Our Northwest

Looming fire coaxes ‘advice guy’ into action

Thursday, August 14, 2014by  Jon Osterberg

This week, a nearby wildfire finally made me take my own advice.
   Despite being the guy who writes PEMCO’s consumer tips and serves as our news-media spokesperson, I admit I’m sometimes “Do as I say, not as I do.”
   PEMCO has urged people for years to maintain an inventory of their home’s contents and possessions. If your home should be destroyed – fire, earthquake, flood – an inventory helps document what’s lost.
   I hadn’t updated the video inventory of our Cle Elum cabin in 10 years. Then I got word last week that lightning had sparked a wildfire on South Cle Elum Ridge, a short 4.9 miles as the crow flies from our weekend home.
   Now there was urgency. Time to take inventory!
   You can capture a home inventory on paper, like this. Or you can make a video inventory, which many find much easier. I did a simple video inventory, because I’m a packrat who already keeps paper receipts for everything in our primary home.
   I started the inventory by shooting the exterior of the cabin, showing its design and type of construction from several angles. Then I walked in the main door with the camera still running, panning from the entryway once inside.
   I shot each room from opposing angles and zoomed in on high-value items. Systematically, I walked through the cabin. I opened closets, drawers, and cabinets to show their contents – clothes, tools, cookware, bedding, whatever they held. I also captured all furniture.
   The whole process took only about 15 minutes. Try to reconstruct a complete inventory from memory and you’ll spend hours, days, or more.
   Most important: Once done, I did not leave the recording at the cabin. I took it with me. What’s the sense of storing an inventory in the very structure that’s threatened by fire?
   As of 10:30 a.m. Thursday, the South Cle Elum Ridge fire remains active, spanning 894 acres. Kudos to Kittitas County Fire District 7, the state DNR, and the 517 firefighters battling to build fire containment lines. Twenty-three engines and five bulldozers are on the job, and DC-10 tankers have dropped fire retardant when needed. The fire is 24% contained.
   If the worst happens, at least I have a detailed record of our cabin and everything in it.
   You can make an inventory in just 15 minutes, too. Do it now. Don’t delay.

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