Community shows solidarity for McKinley Fire victims

WILLOW, Alaska - KTUU Multiple families are receiving the gift of a new home after losing theirs to the McKinley Fire -- but that's just one example of the kindness area residents are showing victims in the wake of the fire.

Volunteers build a make-shift shelter to help victims of the McKinley Fire stay warm through the winter on Saturday Oct. 5. (KTUU)

On Saturday, a group of Willow residents continued working on a project to keep a family of four warm through the winter. The approach of the cold weather months is spurring on volunteers like Mike Stitt, Marshall and Jace Cogdill, and more.

"We're building this addition on the side of this fifth wheel for these folks to be able to have a wood stove and be able to get through the winter a little easier," Stitt said Saturday. He's a full-time contractor who is working for free on three different projects helping out fire victims.

"I think we all should have a servant's heart; that's part of being a Christian and doing right for our neighbor," Stitt said.

Marshall Cogdill, his 12 year-old son Jace and other members of their family started working on the project last weekend. They live near milepost 77 of the Parks Highway, about 11 miles south from where the McKinley Fire burned multiple homes.

"This could've just as easily been us, so we want to make sure we do what we can," Marshall said. "If you look around, it kind of answers the question of why we're here -- it's pretty devastating."

It's clear that Marshall teaches Jace the value of helping people in need; Jace echoed his father's sympathetic words.

"It would be devastating if it was us," Jace said. "I'm just glad there are people here to help them."

This group of volunteers is still looking for a wood stove to install in the RV extension. The family lost everything in the fire and cannot afford one. Anyone looking to donate materials to the project can contact Karen Wilson at (907) 775-6147. Wilson has been actively gathering donations and storing them in her home until they're needed.

McKinley & Deshka Fire Resources: donations and needs page is another repository for donations.

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