A raging wildfire might be attacking Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, but it’s not dampening the spirits of the community.
The Anchorage Press reports that the 900 people who were forced to evacuate their homes from the Funny River inferno all found places to stay at their neighbors, churches, and local businesses. Incredibly, when the American Red Cross set up temporary shelter at a Soldotna elementary school, the organization found every single one of their cots empty because evacuees found more comfortable places to stay.
Hooligans Lodge took in an astounding 130 people and 30 pets from the evacuation — all for free. Lodge owner Molly Blakeley-Poland even turned away paying customers.
“We have 14 rooms available at Hooligans right now for free to help [the] evacuated,” she wrote on Facebook. “You can also use my parking lot for trailers, motorhomes, etc. We have snacks and coffee free in the lobby. We are ready to help.”
“This community’s been amazing,” Blakeley-Poland said. “We’ve had several people just show up and say, ‘How can I help,’ and it’s beautiful.”
Locals certainly did their part to help. According to Inquisitr, the lodge received so many food donations from the community that the staff packed it all up in three cars and drove it directly to the firefighters battling the blaze. Amazingly, when Blakeley-Poland posted on social media that her lodge was running low on toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner, and toilet paper, the following morning caring neighbors went above and beyond, donating everything that was asked for and more.
According to a Alaska public radio broadcast, local restaurants also gave away discounted and free food to evacuees and firefighters.
Hooligan’s adjoining restaurant, The Pour House, offered free snacks, coffee, and even a shower for evacuees that needed one. They wrote on their Facebook page, “If you want to just sit and talk to other residents affected by the fire then come do that. We are here to help as much as we can. Bless all of you!!”
Terry Bookley, Captain of Central Emergency Services, told his community in a radio message, “I sit here struggling to find the right words to express how thankful I am for the overwhelming level of support that this community has provided to me, my crew, and the crews that I work with.”
He added, “I don’t think you can realize just how uplifting it is to all of us when we get a thumbs up or when you stop us to say thank you. I want you to know we are truly honored to serve you.”
The Alaska fire, which started on May 19, is said to now be 58 percent contained, and most of the evacuees have returned home. While everyone hopes that fire doesn’t ignite again, the community is ready to house their own if it does come blazing back.