Matanuska-Susitna Borough

One Plant at a Time: Sockeye Fire Families

Mat-Su | Patty Sullivan | Friday, May 20, 2016

This Sunday, May 22, 40 families whose properties burned in last summer’s Sockeye Fire will gain greenery, one plant at a time, thanks to a diverse local group, from Willow Elementary School kids to private gardens, who donated time and more than 10,000 plants & trees and $10,000 in donations.

Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly Member Randall Kowalke represents the area. He also helped a family evacuate the fire.It was great that the community has yet another opportunity for healing. I’m really pleased that so many are able to participate and do this,” Kowalke said.

Last June, the Sockeye Fire near Willow burned 7,220 acres, damaging or destroying 55 structures, causing some $2.6 million in property loss. 186 parcels were burned some or entirely by fire, causing some $990,760 in loss. Some 500 firefighters fought the blaze, both Borough and State responders, at a response cost of more than $8 million.

Some 40 families will be receiving plants. The distribution of plants begins Sunday at 2 pm until 4 pm at the Nancy Lake Fire Station, Mile 64.5 Parks Hwy.

Willow Garden Club member, Tam Boeve, helped lead the organizing of the gardening effort. Her home was spared in the fire but much of her family’s acreage was burned. “The Willow Garden Club organized this event to bring some plant life and color to families struggling to rebuild. It is hard to feel hopeful when surrounded with dead trees and blackened landscape. New trees, flowers and a small vegetable garden can be a positive step in the recovery process,” Boeve said. 

Tam’s daughter, Talon Boeve, helped the garden club in the effort. “It’s been nice, me contacting the families, I think they feel better knowing that one of them is sorta helping to organize it. It’s not a charity, it’s just community members trying to work together and bring some people whose spring was a little bleaker than they were hoping—a little bright spot.”

“There are over 40 families who’ll be receiving tree seedlings because there are different levels of loss in the fire area, and people are in different levels of being ready to replant. And some people aren’t ready to handle a garden even if they would like some things. And about 30 people will be receiving some flowers and perennials, and a few more will be receiving the vegetables,” Talon said. Listen to her audio on this page.

The local donations came from many. The Willow Girl Scouts planted 30 trays of seedlings.

Willow Elementary School: The elementary kids started 120 flats of seeds (over 7000 plants, many of which have already had to be transplanted. Carrie Smoldon 947-9835

College students on May 28: Biology students from Westminster College, near Pittsburgh, will plant tree seedlings, flowers, plants, vegetables for four families on Saturday, May 28. Contact Kathy Watkins at 495-1040.

The Arbor Day Foundation donated about 2,600 seedlings for families. This is part of their Community Tree Recovery Program. This will be the first of three annual seedling donations.

The donors include: the Willow Garden Club, the Society of American Foresters, the Arbor Day Foundation, the Alaska Botanical Gardens, Susitna Organics, Three Bears, the Willow Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, Bells Nursery, Coyote Gardens, Lowes, the Willow Recovery Team, the Willow Elementary School, the Girl Scouts, and the Willow Area Community Organization.

The Girl Scouts and the foresters will be distributing from the fire station 2,560 tree seedlings and hundreds of packets of seeds, garden plants, pots, flowers, and soil to families affected by the Sockeye Wildfire.  The plants grown by the school will be distributed from the school.   


 For more information call Tam Boeve at 495-0744.



Talon Boeve on Garden Club Sockeye Project


Talon Boeve in the part of her family's yard that survived the Sockeye Fire.