Gov. Mike Dunleavy has issued a disaster declaration for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Kenai Peninsula Borough in response to impacts from the McKinley, Deshka Landing and Swan Lake wildfires.

A release from the governor's office says the fires have damaged or destroyed around 83 structures, caused the evacuation of about 400 people and led to delays in travel along the Sterling and Parks highways as well as the Alaska Railroad.

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

The release states drought, record dry fuels, strong winds and low humidity have all negatively impacted response efforts. The fires are expected to have caused major damage to homes, public facilities, communications and utility lines.

“The Governor’s declaration activates Alaska’s Public Assistance, Individual Assistance and Temporary Housing programs,” said Brig. Gen. Torrence Saxe, Commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “Additionally, the National Guard, and all of DMVA, will continue to support the well-executed fire response.”

The state's public assistance program helps communities, government organizations and nonprofits make repairs to infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, damaged by the fires.

“The Division of Forestry, and our non-government partners, have been doing an excellent job supporting the extended efforts of our local jurisdictions,” said Michael Sutton, the director of Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “The disaster declaration will provide relief for the survivors with fire related damages, and reimbursement for eligible emergency response costs that our partners have incurred.”

The state's individual assistance program provides grants to help fund damage to property, medical expenses and temporary housing. The release says residents and business owners will be notified of how and where they can apply for assistance in the coming days.

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