The McKinley Fire left tons of debris in its wake after destroying 51 homes, 80 outbuildings and three businesses in August. Now the Matanuska-Susitna Borough is working to clean up the mess.

The borough contracted with Alaska Demolition to do the heavy lifting, removing scrap metal and trash left in the right-of-way.

“Mainly a lot of tin. High beams from mobile trailers, some steel, a lot of truck parts, engines, transmissions, a lot of old vehicles,” said Alaska Demolition excavator operator Jon Jacoby.

Butch Shapiro, the manager for the Solid Waste Division, said the goal is to get the job done before winter sets in.

“So it’s critical we keep those open so that we can ensure we can do proper snow removal and any kind of maintenance that’s going on. Those right-of-ways are critical for snow storage,” he said.

Alaska Demolition will get $127.50 per ton, with the total bill not to exceed $96,000. While it’s a Mat-Su Borough contract, the funds will ultimately come from the state because of the disaster declaration.

On Tuesday morning, Jennifer Sweeny had a front row seat to a demolition derby in her driveway.

The McKinley Fire torched three vehicles on her property that are now headed for the scrap pile. The excavator crushed and compacted the cars to make sure the burned shells would fit in the truck.

“I had a trailer that burned down, it was a 20-footer. It’s weird how the fire burned,” she said.

The flames came within inches of burning Sweeny's house down too. She’s been out of electricity since the fire, using a neighbor’s generator to get by.

“There’s the fridge,” Sweeny said, lifting the lid on a cooler next to her house. With colder temperatures it won’t be long before the fridge is more like a freezer.

The charred cars are one less problem she has to worry about now that the borough’s removed them from the right-of-way.

“I was just telling my friend I’m tired of looking out at those burned vehicles,” Sweeny said.

Jacoby said the usable scrap metal will get recycled; dirty debris — like the gas cans and tires left behind — gets dumped. He estimated the work should be done within the next two weeks.

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