/3 fires roar through southeast Washington communities of Whitman County

3 fires roar through southeast Washington communities of Whitman County

Wind-whipped wildfires roared through southeast Washington state, virtually wiping out one entire small town, reducing its City Hall and fire department to rubble, authorities said Tuesday.

Three fires between Colfax and Malden, in Whitman County, touched off on Monday and, fueled by high winds and an abundance of dry brush, two were still going strong by Tuesday morning, officials said.

Firefighters still had no containment against flames in Malden and unincorporated lands near Green Hollow Road on Tuesday, in blazes which had each charred 8,000 acres and 2,000 acres, respectively, regional fire spokeswoman Sydney McBride said.

The Colfax fire burned 5 acres, and that was 100-precent contained by late Tuesday morning, McBride added.

The Malden fire destroyed 80 percent of that small town, wiping out its post office, fire department, City Hall and adjoining library, sheriff’s officials said. Half the buildings of neighboring Pine City were also destroyed by the Malden fire, a state official said.

“It’s a mess,” said Jamie Keller, operations manager for Whitman County dispatch.

It wasn’t immediately clear if there had been any fatalities from the three fires, in the Palouse region south of Spokane and north of Moscow, Idaho, that were pushed by 45 mph winds, authorities said.

“Hopefully zero,” McBride said, in hopes of containing the human toll of these fires.

In addition to the public buildings burned to the ground, several homes were also destroyed, officials said.

“The scale of this disaster really can’t be expressed in words,” Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers said in a statement.

“The fire will be extinguished but a community has been changed for a lifetime. I just hope we don’t find the fire took more than homes and buildings. I pray everyone got out in time.”

This is a developing story, please refresh here for updates.

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