Keeping the keepsakes safe from fire

Wildfire Week

CHICO, Calif. - Other than the loss of life, which can't be calculated, the most heart-wrenching loss that comes from a fire is the loss of memories and keepsakes.  Baby pictures, family heirlooms -- not to mention important financial papers -- destroyed by a fire can cause deep heartache.

Nowadays, most of us keep our pictures on our computers. But they are susceptible to fire said Aaron Hall, a computer specialist who owns CPI Computer Services in Chico.

"We don't like having that conversation of 'Oh, we're sorry.  You've lost all of your kids photos from the moment they were born,'" Hall said.

One option is to have your digital photos put on a server at another location -- CPI's office, for example -- which creates a second copy of everything on your computer in an entirely different location.

"As soon as you add a file within a few hours it's uploaded to our servers," Hall said. "As long as your house doesn't burn down and our building doesn't burn down on the same day, you're probably fine."

Not long ago, Mr. Hall offered the service to a woman, who declined.  A few months later she returned -- charred computer in hand.

"Nothing was left," said Hall. "And she said, 'I wish I had taken you up on that offer. My neighbor was barbequing and burned down our apartment complex.'"

Not all memories and keepsakes are kept on a hard drive. What about jewelry and  family heirlooms?  For those a traditional safe is needed.

"Statistically, one in 10 people in this area have a fire safe at home," said Mike Harper who owns California Safe Company in Chico.

"If you had a fire and you wanted everything to be there when you came back, there's only one way to do that and that's by buying a quality safe," Harper said.

A quality safe will have its framing filled with concrete -- not dry wall, which won't protect from fire, but are one third less expensive.  A popular 30-inch wide safe, that is concrete-filled, costs $1,600.

However, putting a price tag on memories is a fool's errand.  Because it's not until everything is lost does one realize how valuable their valuables really are.  

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