Top weird and wonderful things people would save if the house was on fire

If your house was on fire, would you rescue your signed photo of Sylvester Stallone? We asked people what treasured items they’d save, and of course it got weird

Nobody expects their home to be destroyed by fire, but many of us have been asked the question what single treasured item you’d rush into the flames to rescue.

The correct – and very dull answer – according to a UK health and safety software company is that you don’t rescue anything as the treasured item is you and your loved ones.

But that hasn’t stopped hundreds of people telling what – given the chance – they’d dash back for, and that’s when things started getting weird.

“People have very strange ideas of what’s important to them,” says spokesperson Mark Hall, “and if the subject wasn’t so serious we’d have been roaring with laughter”.

“OK, we laughed. A lot.”

Top Ten Treasured items asked 600 people what they’d rescue from a fire.

While many replies stated they’d go after birth and marriage certificates or (our most popular reply) “The Kids”, more than a few veered off into what we can only say is downright strangeness.

So here’s a top ten:

  1. Grandma’s ashes
  2. “My scale model 1982 A-Team van and action figures BNIB” (Brand new in box)
  3. A priceless collection of adult magazines (in mint condition)
  4. “Signed photo of Sylvester Stallone from the film Judge Dredd”
  5. Taxidermied pet – “He died in 1995, but he’s still very much part of the family”
  6. “That £100 I won at the bookies, I’ve been hiding from the wife” (Your secret’s safe with us, Rob)
  7. “My vinyl originals of the works of Simon and Garfunkel”
  8. The dining room table. “It’s an antique, you know. We’re hoping to see it on the Antiques Roadshow”
  9. “My juicing machine, I don’t know how I managed before juicing”
  10. “My unfinished novel, it’s taken me six years and it’s going to make my fortune”

What is really telling in our society dominated by the pursuit of possessions, less than half said that they’d get straight out to safety with their family.

In fact, the top five replies were:

  1. The wife and kids
  2. Wallet
  3. Family photos
  4. Car keys
  5. Family documents

“At the risk of sounding like a tweed-suited sociology professor, this is all rather disappointing,” says’s Mark Hall, “even granny’s ashes, no matter how sentimentally attached you are, aren’t worth dying for.

“The garage can sort you new car keys. The bank will get you new bank cards. New documents are a pain, but you’ll get them. Leave them be.”

He also has a word for the budding JK Rowling from our survey results: “If you’re going to write a book, at least have it backed up somewhere, even if it’s your mum’s house.”

Mark’s final word on the survey: “There were way too many of you saving your sex toys. What’s wrong with you people?”

What you should actually do in the event of a fire

If you’re unfortunate enough to be in a house fire, you should only be concerned with one thing: Getting yourself and your loved ones to safety.

  • Firstly shout FIRE FIRE, then leave the house in a calm manner, we do not recommend putting your life or others in danger by attempting to save personal items
  • Dial 999, and leave the fire to the professionals

And, of course, you can prevent this all by happening by taking a few simple precautions.

  • Get smoke alarms. And (here’s the bit everybody forgets) test them regularly
  • Make sure appliances are switched off at bed time or if you go out.
  • Devise an escape plan for if there’s a fire. Make sure your escape route is flexible enough for different scenarios.
  • Do your children know what to do? Teach them – they could be the person that saves your life.

But the one thing you must always remember in those awful moments when everything you own is going up in smoke is only to think about personal safety.

“It doesn’t matter if my complete set of Duran Duran CD singles is going to succumb to a fiery end,” says’s Mark Hall, “I’ll be outside with my wife and kids counting our blessings, thank you.”

“Objects, no matter how personal or valuable they may be, can be replaced. You cannot.”

Jenny has been reporting on small business issues since 2001 where she held a number of freelance positions across the leading SME publications in the UK. Specialist subjects included SME financing and tax.

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