Malden residents await federal aid 3 months after wildfire

By The Associated Press

MALDEN — Nearly three months after a wildfire destroyed 80 percent of the homes in Malden, residents are still waiting for aid from the federal government.

The Babb Fire ravaged the Whitman County towns of Malden and neighboring Pine City on Sept. 7.

Gov. Jay Inslee asked President Donald Trump to declare the fire a major disaster.

The Spokesman-Review reported that designation would send millions in aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide temporary housing and help residents rebuild.

Scott Hokonson, a Malden town council member who lost his home in the fire, said many Malden and Pine City residents were already struggling financially and did not have insurance.

“We’re waiting for FEMA, we’re waiting for the president, we’re waiting for something to happen,” he said.

Gerry Bozarth, a Spokane County emergency management specialist on loan to Whitman County to work on Malden disaster relief, said he has been through the process of getting a FEMA disaster designation three times before and knows how fluid the timeline can be.

He called this “an incredible delay.”

Trump declared fires in Oregon a major disaster Sept. 15 and in California a month later, but Inslee’s Sept. 16 request has so far gone unanswered.

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