Dog owners raced the flames to save more than 600 sled dogs as a wildfire swept through Alaska’s Mat-Su Valley last week. In the fire’s path were the homes and kennels of dozens of competitive racing and recreational sled dog owners.
As others fled the area, sled dog owners and their fellow mushers from surrounding areas drove toward the advancing fire to help transport their animals to safety. The Sockeye Fire, named for the road where it originated, devastated more than 7,000 acres north of Willow, Alaska.
The densely-forested area is vulnerable to fires sparked by lightning strikes and human carelessness, and recent hot, dry conditions increased the risk.
Just weeks earlier, members of a local sled dog organization met to discuss emergency plans. Because of this advanced planning and fast action by the mushing community, hundreds of dogs and other pets in sledding kennels were saved from the Sockeye Fire. Musher Chuck Cubbison of Wasilla assisted with the evacuations.