At least 80 buildings have burned from the McKinley Fire since it started on Saturday afternoon. As crews work to defend even more homes, fire officials are reminding all Alaskans that there are things they can to do make their homes less attractive to flames

In the same neighborhood, a wildfire can devour one home but leave the home next door unscathed. Firefighters say it’s what’s around the homes that can make the difference.

The Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team's lead information officer Kale Casey says a lot of homes burn after the main fire has been extinguished. It's the ground fire that burns things like beds of pine needles, leaves or dust close by the home and then creeps toward the structure and burns it. 

Whether you live in a heavily wooded area or in the middle of the city, here are three things the National Fire Protection Association says can that can be done now to protect structures: 

     1. Remove dead leaves and debris from the roofs and gutters, as these can catch embers.

     2. Move any flammable material, including firewood, away from the exterior walls of your home.

     3. Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches. 

Like a picky eater, a wildfire will go for its favorite foods first. Casey says that's exactly what happened during the 2015 Sockeye Fire in Willow. 

"The Sockeye Fire blew over this entire area, took every black spruce with it," explained Casey, who lives near mile 73 of the Parks Highway.

Casey was a first responder to the Sockeye; now he’s decided to make one of the charred neighborhoods his home, and he’s set up his own business there: Non-stop Dogwear USA.

"In the winter, it's still a little depressing around here. However, we're extremely safe in this fire scar because all the black spruce have already torched out. So it's the irony; it's the trade-off," said Casey, who's now working the McKinley Fire.

Casey says black spruce are a fire’s delicacy. "It's like gasoline," he said. 

For the last several years, he's has been paying close attention to them, creating what’s known as a defensible space around his shop.

"When black spruce come up, I'm going to cut them down. I'm going to encourage Aspens to grow," Casey said. He added that that the homes in his neighborhood that did survive the Sockeye Fire were the ones surrounded by Aspen trees. 

"You should cut all of the black spruce around your house if you want to keep your house in Alaska," he said.

Casey also notes that it's important to pack down any dry grass around the edge of your property, particularly if it borders a roadway, so sparks from an automobile accident don't ignite vegetation there. 

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