Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Devastating Fire in Alaska - What Can We Do?

My heart is heavy while I am watching the news from Alaska the past three days.

Dozens of homes have been swept by the devastating forest fire, that was most likely started by fireworks (the cause is still under investigation at the time of writing).

The town of Willow, where the fire, as of yesterday claimed as national disaster by the officials, is very well known to me. I love Alaska. My heart has always belonged to Alaska. I not only have many friends there and visited a number of sled dog kennels in the area, and have so much memories from numerous stays and visits.

It breaks my heart even more to see these kennels wiped out of the surface, as so many mushers have managed to evacuate their dogs and other animals, losing practically all of their material possessions.
Some older dogs haven´t been able to survive the exposure to the heat and some livestock is also reported to have perished in the unpredictable monster.

But the purpose of this post isn´t to bring a "fascinating dramatic news", but rather inform you of the very serious need for help and the urge to spread the news of what happened so that as many of us as possible can help.

Willow is known to be a huge mushing community and sled dog kennels in Alaska are usually very large, easily counting fifty, sixty or even up to around hundred dogs.
Now, imagine how difficult it must be to not only safely evacuate them, but where to house them and how to best take care of them, if you lose your home, kennel, supplies of food and medicine and all the necessary gear and facilities. Where do you house a hundred dogs? And now multiply that number by six or seven, or even more, because that is at least how many mushers have been effected by the Sockye fire!

Luckily, mushers in Alaska are known to be a tight community and many offer a helping hand if they can. In this case, four time Iditarod champion Martin Buser and his wife Kathy Chapoton of Happy Trails Kennels have opened their kennel in Big Lake to all mushers in need and are curently housing several hundred sled dogs. Martin has also graciously offered water, dog food and helped set up payment information for folks who want to help individual mushers.

Eagle Pack dog food company has also stepped in and offers complimentary dog food to all the displaced mushers. Kudos to Eagle Pack - one of the commercial dog food brands I always trusted! The dog food is available at Happy Trails Kennel.

Another big help arrived from UnderDog Feeds - a feed store in Wasilla, owned by the Norris family, who´s house and kennel in Willow is in danger as well. They opened their store lot to mushers in need and opened an account for folks to help with dog food bills for the mushers.

I can only imagine how it feels to have your dogs tied to a fence in the heat of the summer, not able to provide any shelter, sleeping in your car or dog truck, because you have nowhere else to go. 
All your possessions, your memories and the homes you have built are gone. 
I have shed tears for the people and their animals, but also for the wildlife, and seeing the images just breaks my heart over and over again.

So what is it that we can do to help ease down the costs, but also to provide the most necessary stuff folks need right now?

One of the best ways is to donate. Every dollar, every euro, every crown does count.
Have only 5 bucks to spare? That can help too! Imagine 1000 people giving a dollar and you have a thousand dollars. Don´t underestimate the power of togetherness.
Here is a link to a donation fund set up for the Willow mushers. It is taken care of by the Willow Dog Mushers Association and will be distributed among those mushers in need.

Martin and Kathy state that many mushers have confirmed they will need 6ft high chain link fencing to build puppy and dog pens, so if anyone would like to help by purchasing those or a gift card instead of sending a donation, this would be a great way too. You can find out more and follow the updates on the Happy Trails Kennels FB page.

Some of us can send in a few dollars, some of us can purchase material to build dog kennels and houses, some people offer transport, a pizza restaurant in Wasilla offers free pizza and salads, some of us can write about it and share the news and info on how to help with others, so we can spread the word further.
Whatever it is that we do, will be greatly appreciated. It could be us the next time. In a split of a moment, our lives and those of the ones we love and care for, can be changed.
Let´s be active, let´s not just ignore it or pass it with a "how sad" comment.
Helping each other is what makes us human after all. Thank you!

P.S. Feel free to share this blog post.

1 comment:

Barbara B. said...

Wonderful post, Katerina.