Washington governor says nearly 600,000 acres scorched
MALDEN, Wash. (AP) — Wildfires have scorched nearly 937 square miles (2,426 kilometers) in Washington state this week, Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday as he toured the devastated remains of the town of Malden.
That’s more than in any year in the state’s history except for 2015, Inslee said, calling it ``the worst few days in wildfire history for Washington state.″
“We’ve had this trauma all over Washington,” Inslee said, according to KHQ-TV. “But this is the place where the whole heart of the town was torn out.”
Malden is a farm town set among wheat fields about 35 miles south of Spokane, Washington.
Malden Mayor Chris Ferrell said residents only had minutes to get out of town before the wind-drive flames moved in on Monday. No one was killed or seriously injured.
Inslee said the state is already responding to the losses in Malden, which had around 200 residents, and nearby Pine City, which was even smaller.
The Democratic governor has declared a state of emergency to free up cash assistance for families in need. Crews have started work to restore utilities.
But more than 80% of the homes in Malden were destroyed by the flames, and officials have said many people did not have insurance.
Inslee repeated that this week’s swarm of wildfires is the result of climate change, which he called ``fundamental forces making fires so cataclysmic.″
The fires were driven by a dangerous combination of hot temperatures, very low humidity and very strong winds, making them very difficult to control, Inslee said.
Firefighters cannot stop wildfires ``if we allow climate change to make them TNT,″ Inslee said. ``That is what we are facing.″
Calmer winds were helping firefighters get the upper hand in eastern Washington, where numerous large fires were burning Thursday.
Among the largest conflagrations, the Pearl Hill Fire in Douglas County was around 272 square miles (704 square kilometers) and was 10% contained, officials said.
The Cold Springs Fire in Okanogan County was 268 square miles (694 square kilometers) and 10% contained.
The Whitney Road Fire near the town of Davenport was 190 square miles (492 square kilometers) and was 20% contained.