Gov. Dunleavy tours Mat-Su wildfires after making state disaster declaration

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Gov. Mike Dunleavy has toured areas impacted by the Deshka Landing and McKinley fires a day after making a state disaster declaration.

The disaster declaration will help release state funds to help combat the fires and reimburse residents impacted by the the McKinley, Deshka Landing, and Swan Lake wildfires.

There is currently no preliminary cost estimate for the damage caused by the wildfires but one is expected next week, said Brig. Gen. Torrence Saxe, Commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Like the Nov. 30 earthquake, people who qualify for state assistance from the McKinley fire can receive up to $34,900. For those who require temporary housing, the state will help with rent for up to three months and homeowners can receive payments for up to six months.

"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 the governor on Friday. “This declaration frees up financial assistance to help the victims of these devastating fires begin to rebuild their lives as quickly as possible.”

After flying over the affected areas, Mat-Su Borough Mayor Vern Halter spoke about the dryness of the terrain and the amount of dead trees. "We could get another fire going real easy," he said before warning people to not start any type of fire in the area.

In a press release sent on Friday, the governor's office says that the wildfires have destroyed an estimated 83 structures, caused the mandatory evacuation of approximately 400 residents, interfered with Alaska Railroad operations and caused traffic delays on the Sterling and Parks Highways.

The governor's office says that residents and affected business owners will be notified of how and where they can apply for assistance in the upcoming days.