Washington Commissioner of Public Lands visits fire-ravaged Malden

MALDEN, Wash. — Hilary Franz, Washington’s Commissioner of Public Lands,  visited Malden Wednesday afternoon. She wanted to see the destruction for herself following Monday’s violent wildfire.

As the commissioner of public lands, Franz has seen her fair share of devastation and walking through Malden was no different.

“We had no chance. We had little time. People, the fire department, the emergency sheriffs, the ms, the water tenders, the farmers. They did the best they could to get this thing under control. But we did not have enough time to get out. That’s how bad it was,” said Malden Mayor, Chris Ferrell.

Ferrell watched her town light up and disappear before her eyes in a matter of minutes Monday.

“I’ve never seen any winds like this in my life. I’ve been here a long time,” Mayor Ferrell said. “It was very scary.”

Her story, and the story of Malden, are the ones that touch Commissioner Franz the most.

“We are very stretched in resources. We are trying to do our best in every single corner in this state. To get control, to protect these communities,” Franz said.

Commissioner Franz stressed over and over that the state needs to invest more in fire prevention.

“We’ve had over 56 fires in the first day of Labor Day that popped up,” Commissioner Franz said. “Over nine became significant. The next day, 24.”

Washington Department of Natural Resources has 73 full-time firefighters. Commissioner Franz said it is not enough.

“We’re fighting the first day on a Type 1 coming in,” Commissioner Franz said. “We were fighting with California for that incident management team coming in. We lost that battle. The next day, we’re fighting and trying to keep on that one. Oregon, a horrific situation there as well. We lost that one.”

Commissioner Franz said there is little help available in the air or ground.

“I shouldn’t be in a position of having to say, ‘I’m sorry. Firefighters, you are putting your lives on the line for people you don’t even know. But this is all I got for you.’ This state needs to realize that these fires are now an annual thing,” Commissioner Franz said.

Commissioner Franz promised Malden’s Mayor that her team will return and they would support them in rebuilding the town that endured so much over the past 72 hours.