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Regional News

Washington Lands Commissioner Visits Malden, Vows Help For Small Towns

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The recovery has begun in Malden, Washington, where a wildfire roared through on Labor Day and burned most of the buildings, including homes.

State Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz on Wednesday visited the small Whitman County wheat farming town to offer her support.

Franz and Mayor Chris Ferrell walked together up and down streets where all that’s left of most buildings are stone foundations and brick walls. Here and there a house emerged unscathed.

Afterward, Franz vowed to help towns like Malden become more resistant to wildfires.

“I can look right up this road, right here, and you see where the fire went and how it stopped at the green grass, right? Some homes were more resilient. Every one of them we should have the resources to make every single community, every single neighborhood, every single home, resilient to fire and to be able to suppress those fires quickly," she said.

Mayor Ferrell says town officials have verified that all of its residents have survived. Many are staying elsewhere. Utility crews have begun to replace power poles that fell over and to restring electric wires. Once the power is restored, then pumps can resume water service. One of the next steps, she says, is to find the resources to begin rebuilding.

“We’re trying to get an organization for donations," Ferrell said. "We have so many people that want to donate anything and everything they can and it’s very overwhelming for us because we’re a very small town. We don’t have any buildings to put anything in.”

Ferrell says Avista Utilities will soon bring in a temporary building to serve as city hall.