Nine members of the Nott family lived at Mile 86.5 of the Parks Highway — Paul Nott, his wife, JoAnne, and seven of their nine sons.  

“We all have cars and snow machines and four-wheelers, I mean, it’s like a little village right there,” Paul explained, “so for us, just to get ready, like, what do you pick?”

In hindsight, he knows there’s not much they could have grabbed. They had only a few minutes to pack up and leave, and in those moments, Paul’s only concern was for his family.  

“All the vehicles are lined up and we start to get out of there, because I see the flames right behind the house, and I’m looking at everybody, making sure they’re all there, and I couldn’t see this boy,” said Paul, gesturing toward one of his sons.

He had gone out ahead of his family, but Paul didn’t know that.

“I’m waiting there and the lady is saying, ‘Go, go you gotta get out,’ and she’s crying and screaming,” said Paul.

His voice cracked and he paused as he remembered the moment.  

“He can’t leave until all his children are safe,” JoAnne said, finishing the thought for him.

Paul Nott (left) remembers not knowing where his son was as his family tried to escape the McKinley Fire. (Heather Hintze / KTVA)

All nine of them made it out safely.

Paul thought years of stockpiling food, supplies and guns would have prepared them to withstand anything, but even their best planning was no match for the McKinley Fire.

The family did not stick around long enough to hear what they imagine must have been several explosions but said when they returned after the fire, the home was a total loss.

“It looks like a war zone,” he said.

The Nott family doesn’t have insurance and isn’t sure what they’ll do next. They’re staying in Wasilla at the home of another son and using two borrowed RVs. 

What's left of the Nott family's home after the McKinley Fire. (Photo Courtesy: Nott family)

“I’m thankful we’re all together and safe and nobody got hurt,” Paul said. “But it was close.”

Still, in shock, they’re not sure what they’ll need in the coming days. They only left with the clothes they were wearing and what few possessions they could grab and fit in their vehicles.

They’ve started a GoFundMe page to help.

“We’ve always been on the other side, the giving side,” said Paul. “It’s hard to be on the receiving side.”  

They hope to rebuild as soon as possible. 

Correction: This story has been updated to correct a quote from Paul Nott.

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