Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

Labor Day firestorm devastates county towns


September 3, 2020

MALDEN—While the day started with firefighting efforts in Colfax, the greatest need and destruction occurred to the north. According to a press release put out by the Whitman County Sheriff’s Office, shortly after 12 p.m., while crews were still working on Colfax Fires, it was reported that a fire was moving at a fast rate of speed from the north, believed to have originated on Babbs Road in Spokane County. The Malden Fire was being fueled by extremely high winds, standing timber and dry fields. Members of the Sheriff’s Office immediately responded to the town of Malden once they were notified of the aggressive nature and direction of the fire. Deputies arrived in town and started the evacuation process going door to door and making announcements on vehicle PA systems, notifying residents of the fire and the potential danger to life and property.

Within hours, many of the homes in Malden and the nearby town of Pine City were on fire or completely destroyed. In the town of Malden, the Fire Station, Post Office, City Hall/Library and other prominent buildings have been completely burned to the ground. It is estimated that 80% of the homes and structures in Malden were destroyed. Whitman County Emergency Management, the Sheriff’s Office and Fire Incident Command are working on a plan to take inventory of the damage and to account for residents who were in their homes or in the communities when the firestorm hit.

“The scale of this disaster really can’t be expressed in words. The fire will be extinguished but a community has been changed for a lifetime. I just hope we don’t find the fire took more than homes and buildings. I pray everyone got out in time,” said Sheriff Brett Myers.

The Whitman County Commissioners made an Emergency declaration this morning for Colfax, west of Colfax, Malden and other affected areas of the county.

As of this morning, fire crews from around the region continue to battle the Malden Fire which is still burning in north central Whitman County. The Whitman County Sheriff’s will be working closely with Fire Incident Command and Urban Search and Rescue Teams from Spokane City and Spokane County over the next 24 to 48 hours to search for potential survivors and assess the extent of the damage.

The Sheriff’s Office is also requesting that anyone who may be concerned about a friend, family member or loved one who has not been accounted for contact the Sheriff’s Office at 509-397-6266 to make a report.

Anyone affected or displaced by these devastating fires is urged to contact the American Red Cross for assistance with lodging, food and other necessities. The American Red Cross can be reached at 509-670-5331.

Governor Jay Inslee is expected to visit the county Thursday in part in response to the firestorm and destruction of Malden. He is expected to visit communities in Whitman County that were devastated by the firestorm.


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