ICYMI: Video Available of Commissioner Franz and Malden Officials Press Conference After Devastating Wildfire Burned Whitman County Town
September 10, 2020
The devastation of the small Whitman County town of Malden is a wake-up call for Washington to commit long-needed resources to wildfire prevention and response, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said during an on-the-ground tour of the wreckage Wednesday.
Propelled by hurricane-forced winds shortly after breaking out on Labor Day Monday, the Babb Road fire, which burned some 17,781 acres, destroyed most of Malden’s homes and community locations. Estimates are some 120 homes were destroyed by the fire, including the town’s post office, library, town hall and fire station.
“This has been some of the most challenging 48 hours in our state,” said Commissioner Franz. “This state needs to make this day an absolute priority to never let this happen again. We cannot afford to not have critical resources in every single region of this state.”
Franz, leader of Washington state’s wildfire fighting force, joined Malden Mayor Chris Ferrell to tour the town Wednesday. Ferrell said the fire burned through the town so fast, residents barely had time to escape the flames.
“This was very devastating to our town. We had no chance. We had very little time,” said Ferrell. “I’ve never seen any winds like that in my life – and I’ve been here a long time. It was very scary.”
Video of the Wednesday press conference in Malden is available on DNR’s YouTube channel at: https://youtu.be/WSR11JwCiyQ
The Babb Road Fire was one of 58 fires that broke out Labor Day. Another 24 fires started Tuesday, Sept. 8. Together, the fires sparked those two days have burned 583,224 acres in every corner of Washington as of Thursday, Sept. 10.
“I urge everybody to please not make this the last day we focus on fire; that we make this not the last day that we focus on Malden and all the other communities that are fighting this battle every single year,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “It’s our job to not forget, to be here even after the fires have been put out and to fight for the resources we need.”
DNR’s wildfire mission
Led by Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, DNR is responsible for preventing and fighting wildfires on 13 million acres of private, state and tribal-owned forestlands. DNR is the state’s wildfire fighting force and participates in Washington's coordinated interagency approach to firefighting.