Wash. town devastated by wildfire gets new fire engine

Malden, which was devastated by a Labor Day wildfire, received an early Christmas gift in the form of a 2002 International H5S


Anthony Kuipers
Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Moscow, Idaho

MALDEN, Wash. — Malden, the Whitman County town devastated by a Labor Day wildfire, received an early Christmas gift Thursday.

Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz presented the town with a fire engine on behalf of the Department of Natural Resources to replace the Malden engine that was lost in the fire. The gift is a 2002 International H5S that can hold 620 gallons of water in its tank.

"Our old truck was a 1968," said Malden Mayor Dan Harwood. "We updated a little bit."

As she stood in front of the engine, which had been decorated with a Christmas wreath, Franz said it was a small gesture that will help Malden be more prepared in the event of another wildfire. The community has eight volunteer firefighters.

She said it was the efforts of local volunteer firefighters and residents that contained the fires that swept across the state this past fall.

"We would not have been able to have stopped the fires after Labor Day without the help of our local community members, our ranchers, our mayors, our local firefighters," she said.

She said the Department of Natural Resources depends on local firefighters to get to those fires first before the state steps in with its own resources.

"If they don't have a firetruck, they can't get there," she said.

Franz is hoping more help will come to Malden in the form of state and federal resources.

Washington state and Congressional representatives are pushing for a disaster declaration from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to aid the recovery efforts of Malden and nearby Pine City.

Franz said FEMA has not acted even though other communities in Oregon, California and Texas that were destroyed by wildfires have already received those federal resources.

"It shouldn't take this long," Franz said. "Other communities got it far quicker even if their request came after this town."

Harwood said Malden is in "limbo" as it waits for an answer from FEMA three months after the wildfire hit his town.

"These folks, these citizens, these kids, deserve to have an answer on whether we will or won't be accepted by FEMA," he said.

Franz said she is going to the Washington Legislature with a request for dedicated funding to ensure the state has enough resources for a wildfire response.

She said the state cannot rely on help from the federal level when disaster strikes, and too many Washington communities are not prepared for wildfires or other natural disasters.

"We do not have the infrastructure in place at the local and state level to be able to respond to those disasters," she said.

Harwood said the best way to fight fire is to prevent it.

"And when that doesn't work, now we've got a real fire truck that every little kid hopes to have when they're young," he said.

He said with or without help from the federal level, the community is determined to rebuild.

"One house at a time, one building at a time, one step at a time," he said.

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(c)2020 the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Moscow, Idaho)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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