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Episode 25: Rising up from the Ashes

By KTVA Alaska 6:11 PM October 18, 2015

It’s hard to believe it’s only been four months since wildfires swept through the Willow area, destroying 55 homes and dozens of other buildings.

Many did not have insurance. Some couldn’t afford it. Others weren’t eligible, due to building code requirements or their location. Even those with insurance have not had an easy time of it.

A lot has happened since our last Frontiers program on the wildfire, which aired a week after it blackened more than 7,000 acres and caused an estimated $8 million in damages.

This week, we follow up on the disaster and look the Willow Recovery Project’s work. The group — a mix of agency representatives, local and church organizations — meets every Tuesday at the Willow Methodist Church. They have a long “to-do list” they’ve been working through with great care, matching the needs with services. The group has worked hard to stretch its cash, with help from volunteers and other donations.

The Recovery Project has a lot to be proud of, given how much progress has been made since June 14, when green homesteads were suddenly transformed into blackened wastelands of rubble and twisted metal.

Krista Fee, who heads up the Willow Recovery Team, says every family has a story that would break your heart. But those same families also have stories of strength and resilience, which are inspiring.

This week we look at a few of those, including veteran Iditarod musher DeeDee Jonrowe.

After losing just about everything in the fire – dogsleds, outdoor clothing, mushing gear and snowmachines – she’s on the comeback trail, training for the 2016 Iditarod.

Our guests this week are Krista Fee and Alan Budahl, director of Lutheran Social Services of Alaska. They say donations and volunteers are needed now, more than ever, to make sure homes in the process of being rebuilt, at least have a roof on them and a source of heat before winter. Here’s a link for details on how you can help.

Krista says many of the homes in the project have been built by school teachers and retirees. She calls the outpouring of support a “very Alaskan thing.”

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