On June 14, 2015 near the town of Willow, Alaska an unattended burn site quickly turned into a wildfire that engulfed an area of over twelve square miles. The main artery between Anchorage and Fairbanks, the Parks Highway, was closed down, more than fifty-five homes were lost and one thousand people were forced to evacuate. In the midst of this firestorm, Alaska Governor Bill Walker declared a state of emergency. Hundreds of firefighters were brought in to help contain the blaze and the Sockeye Wildfire Disaster Assistance Center was established.
In response to the request received by the Alaska National Guard for personnel to support the Disaster Assistance Center, eighteen Alaska State Defense Force (ASDF) soldiers were placed on State Active Duty. These troops were activated by the Alaska National Guard Joint Operation Center at the request of the State Emergency Operation Center. ASDF soldiers reported for duty from 17 June to 14 August 2015 at the National Guard Armory. These members served at the Sockeye Wildfire Disaster Assistance Center headquarters. Manning the phones around the clock, for eight hour shifts at a time, ASDF soldiers screened, coordinated and forwarded calls to the appropriate agencies in response to the needs of Alaskans who had been displaced by the fire and were requiring various types of assistance.
As of Friday August 7, 2015 a total of 743 fires burned 5,013,053 acres in Alaska. The Alaska State Defense Force was honored to serve the Sockeye Wildfire Disaster Assistance Center during the fire season.