‘Like it was never there’: Mat-Su RV Park destroyed in McKinley Fire
By the time Colin Jennings saw the fire, it was too late to do anything but leave his property, the Mat-Su RV Park.
“One of our guests came and told us something was coming and we went out and looked at it and realized it was literally in our back yards,” he said.
Jennings documented the moment with photos and cell phone videos Sunday, just before driving away. Orange smoke is seen in the trees just behind his office.
“Yeah that fire’s right behind us man, we gotta go,” he can be heard saying in one of the videos.
“Embers were starting to fall and catch the driveway on fire as we were driving out, so we were literally driving through little fires that were starting to pop up,” Jennings explained Thursday.
“It was quite a shock,” he said, “because you don’t have time to prepare for it. It was so quick and so sudden.”
Monday, Jennings went back to the property to look at the damage.
“Oh my god, I’m so broken-hearted for my mother,” he can be heard saying in one of his cell phone videos. “Oh my god, she’s gonna be devastated.”
What was once his mother’s home is now an ash-filled hole.
Thursday, Jennings made a second trip back to the property.
“I just wanted to look closer at everything to see if I could find anything that was salvageable and memorabilia or anything like that, but no,” he said, shaking his head.
The RV park was not only a popular stop for tourists halfway between Anchorage and Denali, but it also provided running water and laundry services for Alaskans living in dry cabins nearby. Now, all that’s left is ash and metal.
Jennings’ mother flew to Utah to stay with family for now, and he is staying in an RV owned by former visitors who stayed at his park while building their home North of the fire zone.
Fortunately, unlike some of his neighbors, Jennings was required to have insurance because of his commercial business license.
He plans to rebuild.
“A lot of people come back year after year because they say we have the nicest showers in Alaska and the friendliest people,” he said.
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