In June of 2015, our area was yet again struck by a raging fire started by carelessness. Many of us immediately went to memories of the Miller’s Reach fire many years ago and the suffering it caused so many.
Authorities reported an unusually high number of wildfires burning simultaneously across the tundra and forest of the state. While wildfires are a common occurrence here, this year’s fires are estimated at 562. This is due to a light winter snowpack and very little rain leaving dry ground that was vulnerable to lightning strikes. However, the Sockeye fire was started by fireworks. About 750 firefighters fought this fire to bring it under control.
Lions in our District rallied to help the 55 residents that lost everything they owned from vehicles to houses to dog kennels. The first step was to obtain a grant from Lions Clubs International Foundation for immediate relief. Then clubs from around the State donated funds to help the victims on a long term basis.
The relief effort started with friends from Team CC and a lion member gathering dog food, dog bowls and water for the 100+ sled dogs who had lost their home. $2000 in food and water was delivered within a few days of the fires starting to Martin Buser’s kennels to help with all the dogs he took in for his fellow mushers who lost everything.
Next, the Sleeping Lady Mountain Lions and Eagle River Lions opened up the Eagle River Lions clubhouse for donations the weekend after the fire began for three days collecting food, water, Gatorade, and clothing for the victims. As is customary for our community, Alaskan came out to assist their neighbors. Truck loads with these donations were delivered to Willow for fire victims.
Then, Lions from the Sleeping Lady Mountain Lions, Bear Mountain Leos, Anchorage Lions, Captain Cook Lions, Willow Lions and Anchorage Latino Lions all pitched in and went shopping for various food items, personal hygiene items, towels, diapers, wipes and toilet paper. We filled our large box truck with the Lion’s Logo affixed to the side and headed north to Willow.
A week later, a second trip with the same clubs getting together and purchasing numerous cleaning supplies for the 55 families to assist in their clean-up effort. If you would like to view pictures of our efforts, please visit the Sleeping Lady Mountain Lions Facebook page.
The majority of the lions participating in this effort had never responded to such a large relief effort and were very moved by this experience. Purchasing for 55 families is quite overwhelming. Lions still have work to do and look forward to assisting their neighbors to the North in Willow. These efforts by Lions and Lions totaled 228 hours to accomplish our efforts to date.
Three lion clubs serve this area – Chugiak Lions, Eagle River Lions and Sleeping Lady Mountain Lions, our youth are the Bear Mountain Leos which are age 13-18 years of age. If you would like to learn more about being a lion, please visit www.lionsclubs.org; www.sleepingladylions.org; www.eagleriverlions.org or visit us on Facebook to see our activities and pictures.
Lion Karen Burns