Ken Barkley has seen difficult days as the Matanuska-Susitna Borough's Emergency Services director. Friday turned out to be one of the most challenging.

"We notified residents, the ones that lost their homes, were notified today. Been doing this for a very long time, probably one of the hardest things we've had to do," Barkley told the crowd gathered at Willow Elementary School Friday afternoon for an update on the wildfires.

Barkley joined others from the Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team to update residents on the situation. The McKinley Fire had destroyed 51 primary homes, 3 commercial buildings, and 84 secondary structures by Friday afternoon.

Wasilla's Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center is one of two American Red Cross evacuation shelters. The other is Talkeetna's Upper Susitna Senior Center. The Red Cross said it has provided 325 overnight stays by Friday night. 

Willow Elementary, Su Valley Jr./Sr. High, Trapper Creek Elementary and Talkeetna Elementary Schools closed because of the fires. They are expected to reopen Tuesday. However, that does not mean all the students at the Menard Center shelter will be in the classroom when classes resume.

"It's too far from Menard to be driving kids up to Su Valley, Trapper Creek, Talkeetna. That'd be about a three hour ride, so we're going to assess what those families want to do," said MatSu School District Superintendent Monica Goyette. "I think we'll bring Chrome books and computers in there, get a teacher in there and try to help them stay up as much as they can."

Friday's update did provide some good news regarding the Deshka Landing Fire.

"Our acreage is currently 1,543 acres. There's been no change in the last couple of days," said Incident Commander Alen Lawson. "There was a reduction due to better mapping."

There is a "Level 2 - Set" notification for those who live between mileposts 79 and 81.5 of the Parks Highway.

There is a "Level 1 - Ready" notification for those in the area of mileposts 76 to 79.

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