- Associated Press - Monday, May 23, 2016

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A group is working in Willow to help dozens of residents whose properties burned down in last year’s Sockeye Fire to bring life back to their community.

Tam Boeve with the Willow Garden Club said her group has been working with about 40 residents to bring back the trees, flowers and other plants that once surrounded their properties.

“This project started shortly after the Sockeye Fire last fall,” Boeve told Anchorage station KTUU-TV (https://bit.ly/25haoYb). “We wanted to help families involved in the fire get their properties back to where they were before.”

Willow resident Kathleen Fielder said almost every tree was burned down on her property by the June 2015 fire that also destroyed dozens of homes and other structures. She is planning to rebuild with 60 pine tree seeds she received from the Willow Garden Club as part of the project.

Fielder said her property is far from what it looked like before the blaze and acknowledged that she will have to adjust.

“We will probably never be normal, she said. “We just got to make a new normal.”

According to Boeve, the group has received about $10,000 in grants and donations from stores and local greenhouses to support the recovery efforts.

The Sockeye Fire, named for the street in Willow where the fire began, destroyed 25 homes and up to 20 other structures, including sheds and outhouses. The human-caused fire blackened 12 square miles along the Parks Highway, the main route between Anchorage and Fairbanks.

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