Alaska governor issues disaster declaration as wildfires rage

At least 83 structures have been destroyed as wildfires rage north of Anchorage, Alaska, authorities said Friday.  

Alaska Gov. Michael Dunleavy (R) issued a disaster declaration Friday for the Matanuska Susitna Borough and Kenai Peninsula Borough due to the flames. He cited three different fires in a statement: the McKinley, Deshka Landing, and Swan Lake wildfires.

Hundreds of Alaskans have been evacuated to escape the flames that began Sunday night along the Parks Highway in the state, which is a major thoroughfare that connects Anchorage to Denali National Park and Preserve and Fairbanks, according to ABC News.

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“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,” Dunleavy said in his Friday declaration. “This declaration frees up financial assistance to help the victims of these devastating fires begin to rebuild their lives as quickly as possible.”

Fifty-one homes and three businesses were affected, according to ABC News. The outlet reported that the exact cause of the fire is under investigation but officials have said it was caused by humans.

Homeowners at one of two evacuation centers met with Matanuska-Susitna Borough state officials to learn how the blaze had affected their homes, but others who were not at the evacuation cites have yet to be notified, according to ABC News.

Dunleavy said in his Friday statement that, “the response to the wildfires has been hampered by conditions affecting the entire south central portion of the state, such as drought and record dry fuels, strong winds, and low humidity.”

The fire has affected nearly 6 square miles and is estimated to be ten percent contained, Tim Mowry, a spokesman for the Alaska Division of Forestry, told ABC News.

Approximately 100 firefighters, 20 engine crews and three helicopters were working to put out the flames, according to Mowry. Another 100 firefighters are expected to arrive Sunday.

"They're dropping water and retardant on and around it, but we really need people on the ground to reinforce those aerial assets," Mowry said.