Friday, August 23, 2019 (Palmer) – Governor Michael J. Dunleavy today issued a Disaster Declaration for the Matanuska Susitna Borough and Kenai Peninsula Borough for impacts from the McKinley, Deshka Landing, and Swan Lake wildfires.
The wildfires have damaged or destroyed an estimated 83 structures, resulted in mandatory evacuation of approximately 400 residents, and caused intermittent travel delays along the Sterling and Parks Highways and for rail traffic along the Alaska Railroad. The scope of the damage is not yet fully realized due to active fire suppression efforts. However, substantial damage to private homes, public facilities, and communications and utility lines are anticipated.
The response to the wildfires has been hampered by conditions affecting the entire southcentral portion of the state, such as drought and record dry fuels, strong winds, and low humidity.
“In a short amount of time, these wildfires have already cost dozens of Alaskan families everything they own. Many homes, personal belongings, and businesses are completely gone, and the disruption brought to their lives is unimaginable,” said Governor Michael Dunleavy. “This declaration frees up financial assistance to help the victims of these devastating fires begin to rebuild their lives as quickly as possible.”
“The Governor’s declaration activates Alaska’s Public Assistance, Individual Assistance and Temporary Housing programs,” said Brig. Gen. Torrence Saxe, Commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “Additionally, the National Guard, and all of DMVA, will continue to support the well-executed fire response.”
“The Division of Forestry, and our non-government partners, have been doing an excellent job supporting the extended efforts of our local jurisdictions,” said Director Michael Sutton, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “The disaster declaration will provide relief for the survivors with fire related damages, and reimbursement for eligible emergency response costs that our partners have incurred.”
The State of Alaska Public Assistance program is designed to help communities, government organizations, and certain non-profits make repairs to utilities, public buildings, roads, bridges, and other critical infrastructure damaged by the declared event.
The State of Alaska Individual Assistance program is designed to provide grant funding to individuals and families for damages to their real property and personal property, as well as medical expenses that are a direct result of the disaster event. In addition, the Individual Assistance program can provide temporary housing to individuals and families that cannot return to their homes.
Residents and affected business owners will be notified of how and where they can apply for assistance in the upcoming days.