Dog mushers are nothing without their dogs, and these mushers proved it by risking their lives to save their teams from a large wildfire.
While a devastating wildfire left most people scrambling to evacuate the town of Willow, Alaska on June 14, 2015, DeeDee Jonrowe and her friend Martin Buser were trying desperately to rescue her sled dog team before they were burned alive.
Jonrowe is a four-time Iditarod champion who lives with her 54 dogs in the town. This also happens to be the traditional starting point for the Iditarod, the most grueling dog sled race in the world that takes mushers on a week-long trek through the entire state of Alaska.
While helping Buser, who lives 45 minutes down the road, his wife walked out to deliver the horrible news that a raging wildfire had started at Sockeye Avenue and was quickly spreading towards Jonrowe’s home.
They quickly sprang into action and barreled down the road to her house where she had left her dogs chained up in the front yard. They disregarded the troopers trying to block roads from people driving towards the inferno and blew past them.
“The troopers may not have been very happy, but we had to go. The concept of any animal burning is just almost too much to bear.” Junrowe told KTUU News.
When they arrived to her property there was already a wall of flames engulfing her home.
They rushed over to the dogs and loaded them into the trucks before she ran inside her house. She only had time to grab her passport, a handful of cash, and her checkbook before she bolted back to the trucks and sped away from the flames.
Unfortunately one of her 15-year-old dogs who was deaf and her cat could not be saved from the blaze after being trapped inside the burning house.
She lost everything to the fire saying, “Thirty-eight years of memories gone.”
Junrowe lost all of her sledding equipment, a lot of which was handmade including her sled and dog harnesses. “They’re just things, but it breaks your heart to lose them.”
Since the fire first began it has torched nearly 7,500 acres. Over 100 structures have been lost including dozens of homes. Many of those were mushers as well and made the decision to risk their lives to save their dogs along with Junrowe.