An entire town has been almost completely wiped out by a fast-moving wildfire in eastern Washington State. Authorities are scrambling to account for the community’s residents after the fire swept through Malden on Monday. The farming town is 35 miles south of Spokane.
Completely destroyed buildings include the fire station, post office, city hall and library. They are just a few of the 80 percent of the homes and buildings that were destroyed. The Whitman County Sheriff’s Office made the shocking assessment in a news release to media.
Homes in nearby Pine City were also damaged or destroyed, according to the sheriff’s office.
“The scale of this disaster really can’t be expressed in words,” Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers said in a statement. “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.”
More than 75 large wildfires are burning across the United States, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. California has been hit hardest, with entire communities there ordered Monday to evacuate.
In eastern Washington, fires fueled by high winds and dry ground spread quickly Monday, engulfing structures and damaging property as nearly every fire district in the county responded. Just after noon, another fire moved in, and deputies went door to door to evacuate residents, according to the news release.
Whitman County Emergency Management, the sheriff’s office and Fire Incident Command are working on a plan to take inventory of the damage and account for residents who were in their homes or in the communities when the firestorm hit.