Was there water in the pipe?
I would cut the pipe first using a close-quarters pipe cutter, hacksaw, or sawzall. Upon verifying that absolutely no water remain in the lines then I would use the torch for soldering. Using a torch to try to pull apart a soldered joint can be tricky sometimes. And my preference would be to use a ball valve, gate valves lose it ability to completely shut off over time.
3 is more than enough distance away. Rag is okay. I use a rag sometimes when an adjacent fitting is 1 or less away from what I am trying to remove. Can't really picture what you have with your description. Picture Time!! Water is your biggest enemy when trying to solder. R U trying to take off the gate valve? Replace it with a good BALL VALVE. Gate valves suck. Stems break and the rarely hold 100%.
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