Willow Transfer Station opens to brush, yard debris

Mat-Su Borough staff hope the closer location encourages people in the Susitna Valley to put defensible space around their property
Mat-Su Borough staff hope a closer brush location will encourage people to clear defensible...
Mat-Su Borough staff hope a closer brush location will encourage people to clear defensible space around their property.(Heather Hintze)
Published: Oct. 8, 2020 at 9:57 AM AKDT
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WILLOW, Alaska (KTUU) -The Matanuska-Susitna borough opened a new site for brush and yard debris at the Willow Transfer Station.

Staff hope people in the Susitna Valley will take advantage of the closer site by clearing their property and putting in defensible space.

Mike Klawitter lives on Nancy Lake and has been working to remove dead trees and brush for years.

“Basically, trying to get rid of the dead spruce which are highly flammable,” Klawitter said.

His home has a large, green lawn around it and he thinned out the forest on the edge of his property.

Klawitter said he knows how important defensible space can be during a wildfire.

Neighbors to the north in Willow and Caswell are still rebuilding after the McKinley Fire destroyed more than 50 homes last year. The 2015 Sockeye Fire also burned more than 50 homes near that same area.

To the south, the 1996 Miller’s Reach Fire took out nearly 350 homes near Houston.

“We all saw the unpredictable nature of wildfires but we saw a lot of instances where homes that did have defensible space did manage to survive the fire,” said Talon Boeve, an emergency operations center specialist with the Mat-Su Borough.

The new site at the Willow transfer station means people no longer have to make the long haul to Big Lake, the next closest site.

Boeve said the cooler fall weather is a perfect time for people to take care of their land.

“Even if the wildfire isn’t raging right in your neighborhood or right up to your home, clearing that brush away from your property and your house is what keeps the embers from igniting and ultimately starting your home on fire,” she explained.

A map of the Nancy Lake area shows many houses in close quarters, especially on the east side.

Klawitter has a large pile of debris at his home he plans to burn after the first snowfall. But he knows many of his neighbors don’t have as much room on their property for a burn pile.

He hopes a closer brush location encourages people to take down debris from their yard.

“You do a really great job on your lot but your neighbor doesn’t do so well a job, so there are minimal gains there. So it’s a community effort amongst neighbors to clear in unison to make sure each one is protected themselves,” Klawitter said.

The Willow Transfer Station is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday to Sunday.

Correction: This story has been updated to fix a typo.

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