Forty-five people spent Sunday night at the Upper Susitna Valley Senior Center Sunday evening and volunteers with the American Red Cross were gearing up for a another crowd on Monday. The center is the official evacuation spot for those on the north side of the McKinley Fire who can't return to their homes.

Matt Cross, a volunteer, said Sunday's crowd included people who lost their homes, those who's homes were safe but they were unable to return to their neighborhoods, as well as a number of tourists who were coming from Denali National Park and were trapped by the road closure.

By Monday afternoon the road had reopened to one lane and just a few people remained at the center. One was Patty Song, who said her cat Willow had been traumatized by the fire. Despite that, song said she had gotten good news from the Talkeetna Fire Chief.

"Our two structures are safe, our box, our electric box but he said if that changes we can lose everything again," she said.

But Ned Sparks, who lives just down the road from Song, wasn't so lucky. Sparks, who is the president of the Susitna Community Council, said he and his wife lost their home in the fire.

"Firefighters felt they had control and, you know, the flames over the tops of trees with the wind. They actually had to flee for their lives too and all the structures are gone," he said.

Firefighters say it could be days before people are allowed back into their neighborhoods. Some are bunking with friends while others plan to stay at the senior center.

David Finch was a new face on Monday. Finch said he and his wife fled from their cabin just in time.

"By the time I got all five dogs in the car the driveway was on fire," he said. "I had to just go forward and get out of there. So I went down and told the neighbors which way it was blowing and they evacuated just before it got to their houses too."

Finch said everyone got out OK but he lost his home, a saw mill and two vehicles. The neighbor he alerted came out unscathed.

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