Last Labor Day their town was destroyed by a wildfire. Now, they’re raising a flag to celebrate how far they’ve come rebuilding.
MALDEN, Wa. — Lives changed forever on Labor Day of 2020 when flames ripped through two small towns south of Spokane. One year later, the community is taking steps forward, as they look back on the fires that ravaged Malden and Pine City.
More than 100 homes were destroyed and the unclear path forward was left in its wake.
This Labor Day, the community of Malden gathered to remember the fateful day when their spirit was tested, but not broken. They raised a flag and celebrated the renewal of the town. They also celebrated how far they’ve come.i
“We came through here since I was born in 1946, from Spokane to Pine City, to see my grandparents,” said Jean Wolff Gassman, who has deep ties to the area.
For her, this community means a love of the land, a love of goodness. The resilience she shows is emulated through the community and its plans for the future. All of that was quite clear today as the community gathered.
“We’re seeing people come back together. Something like this where the children are involved. You help with clean up then you help rebuild,” Wolff Gassman explained.
She believes good things can come from this hardship.
“The hope and restoration and restoring and things. Especially for clean-up. It’s dirty work,” she said as she laughed.
On Monday, they remembered the events that tore apart their community a year ago, but with a focus on what’s ahead. Mayor Dan Harwood told us, “We’re here also to celebrate the accomplishments that we’ve made, the neighbors we met, the folks that have come with their hearts open, every week to assist us in every way.”
They’ve had overwhelming support over the past year, from fire stations through the entire state, to legislators, county commissioners, and beyond. As a result of that, they’re all a part of the healing and the regrowth. Mayor Harwood said, “We’re down a little bit right now, but we’ll come back.”
Many in the town didn’t have insurance, making it more difficult to find money to rebuild. A lot of the landmarks that were used to determine property and land are gone. They’ve rebuilt that framework, they received a 3.7 million dollar grant to repair the water system, and federal help to rebuild their roads.
Mayor Harwood explained, “We’ll have a new well. We’ll be receiving federal help to replace our roads.”
The mayor’s primary goal is to rebuild houses so that everyone in the community has a home. In two weeks, they start construction on their temporary fire station, funded by FEMA.
“I believe in that- beauty out of ashes,” Wolff Gassman, full of hope for their future, said.
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