Malden tree now decked out in holiday lights, thanks to Extreme Team and partners

MALDEN, Wash. — When a wildfire ripped through the small town of Malden back in September, many of its residents were left without a home ahead of the holidays. 

Celebrating the holidays during a pandemic is hard enough. Imagine trying to feel festive when the home you should be decorating a tree in right now was burned to the ground months back. 

Despite these circumstances, the people who still live in Malden have maintained good spirits. They have to; They have work to do, rebuilding the home they all love. 

“In our camper, I’ve been trying to decorate it enough to keep the boys happy. It’s been a little hard, but we’re getting through,” said Maria Castillo, a victim of the wildfire. She and her family are now living in a camper in Steptoe as they wait to rebuild their home.

Castillo and other members of Malden say they’ve had immense help from surrounding communities.

Margie Madsen and her husband were just a few. They decided to donate more than 20 Christmas trees and lights to Malden families.

“We are so lucky and it makes me feel really good to be able to give some people who have absolutely nothing to have just a little bit of Christmas,” Madsen said.

Spirits were lifted a little more on Saturday, when Mark Peterson and the Extreme Team- with help from Avista and ACE Hardware- showed up with twinkling lights to decorate a tree in the town, still left standing. 

Malden is making progress on the road to recovery. The town swore in a new interim mayor, Dan Harwood, on Saturday as well.

“I have in my heart, I have the desire, along with the long term recovery group, to make this work,” Harwood told 4 News Now.

Harwood says they plan on rebuilding four homes at a time, construction on the first of which could hopefully begin as soon as January. Up to 80 homes need to be replaced.

“This is just the beginning. This is just a template for how we hope many more homes could be built in this community on an ongoing basis this year, next year, the following years,” said Scott Hokonson, the director of Pine Creek Community Restoration Project.

Hokonson added that they’re still waiting for an answer as to whether they’d be able to get help from FEMA.

Thanks to the community and the Innovia Foundation, which has raised more than $400,000 with the help of donations, the town is on the road to recovery to rebuild the town they love.

“We know that Christmas is going to come and go, but long-term, this community needs our region to stay with them,” said Aaron McMurray, the chief strategy officer at the Innovia Foundation.

READ: Spokane’s General Store hosts shopping spree for kids who lost everything in Malden fire