‘We need help’: People in Malden seek federal help, say they hope to rebuild either way
MALDEN, Wash. — A small town, ripped apart by a wildfire, is determined to rebuild. This process has been stalled by the federal government because no FEMA Major Disaster Declaration has been approved for Malden.
Governor Inslee sent two requests to the Trump administration in September and October. Though there was no response, people in the town are optimistic about rebuilding, like Nellie Flatt.
“My house was a two-story house and now it’s a hole in the ground,” said Nellie Flatt.
Flatt’s home was consumed by the fire on September 7, 2020. She escaped the town with her daughter, Janell Turner, who lives across the street.
“In about 10 minutes after we left, my mom’s property was starting to get engulfed in flames and her whole entire house leveled from a two-story house down to a couple of feet of ash,” she said.
Four months later, the lot sits with nothing on it. Flatt said she wants to stay in Malden.
“I would like to build back here and I just hope that they do give them a declaration so that we can start putting things back together,” she explained.
Lawmakers have sent more requests, this time to the Biden administration.
“There’s a lot of people that because of not having a declaration, probably won’t be able to rebuild if they don’t get that individual assistance,” Turner said. “It would mean that this town could move forward.”
While frustration mounts, they’re looking at the silver lining.
“My daughter and I are living in her little two bedroom house,” Flatt said. “The walls are a little close at times, but we make it.”
Flatt has thought about buying another home with her insurance money. Other people in the town say it may not be enough for some.
“Even if you did have insurance it doesn’t cover everything,” said Steve VanDyke, a local firefighter and resident. “You don’t realize this until you actually go through it.”
VanDyke lost his shop, a horse and chickens. His house was saved, but it doesn’t mean help from the government isn’t needed for the town.
“We’ve had a lot of help and we’re really grateful of that, but their needs to be a quicker way to handle these emergency when Mother Nature comes in,” he explained. “We need help.”
As for the Flatt and Turner, they’re going to continue to weigh out their options.
” I would love to rebuild here,” Flatt said. “Basically a clean slate now so I can start over.”
Turner says she hopes her 82-year-old mother will find or build a place to call her own again.
“She’s just a phenomenal lady that deserves to be where she wants to be,” Turner explained. “Deserves to be independent as long as she wants to be independent.”
The future is unclear for Malden, but people are determined to rebuild the old railroad town, whether or not they see any money from the government.
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