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Gov. Inslee issues proclamation to help those impacted by wildfires with cash assistance

Gov. Jay Inslee visited Malden, Washington, on Sept. 10, 2020. (Gov. Inslee/Twitter)

Driven by high winds and dry weather, a series of wildfires across Washington state have burned through nearly 587,000 acres since Monday.

Photos of wildfires burning across Washington state

“This is an extraordinary series of events we have suffered,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a Wednesday press conference, after announcing that he was declaring a statewide emergency over the ongoing fires.

Inslee visited Malden on Thursday, where 80% of the town was destroyed, and says he is taking steps to help the people of Washington as soon as possible.

The governor also issued a proclamation Thursday to help families and individuals impacted by wildfires with cash assistance and immediate needs. The assistance will be provided through DSHS’ Family Emergency Assistance Program, which has been expanded to also serve individuals, and the one-time distribution limitation has been waived.

“For families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and now the devastating wildfires ravaging our state, funding from the Family Emergency Assistance Program can be, quite literally, a lifesaver,” Inslee said. “The state will continue to look for ways to support communities as we work together to recover from multiple economic and health emergencies.”

Gov. Inslee also said the state will be assessing the damages and applying for federal assistance, if eligible, which depends on the amount of loss suffered. He pledged that the state will be aggressive in getting aid for the communities impacted by these fires. Any federal help can also go to municipalities.

Again, Inslee asked all Washington residents to be extra careful with fire and any activity that may cause a spark as conditions remain dangerous. The low humidity, heat, and wind are causing these fires to be “explosive” in the state of Washington, Inslee said, as well as the changing climate.

“We talk about this as a wildfire,” he said. “I think we have to start thinking they’re more climate fires.”

In Bonney Lake, over 800 acres have been burned, as well as four homes. The fire continues to be roughly 20% contained, with nearly 2,500 homes now evacuated. As of 7 a.m. Thursday, there have been no changes to the evacuation zone, and SR 410 remains closed between Sumner at 166th Avenue and Bonney Lake’s Veterans Memorial.

East Pierce Fire noted Thursday that “resources are extremely taxed nationally and locally,” as fires continue.

“We struggle to obtain the proper equipment and resources for this fire,” it said on Twitter. “We are making do with what we have.”

Evacuation orders for roughly 100 people from a fire in Graham were lifted at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, with responders in the area now focused on watering down hotspots to ensure the fire doesn’t start up again.

A 1-year-old boy from Renton died as his family was trying to escape the Cold Springs Fire in Okanogan County. His parents were last reported in critical condition at a Seattle hospital. That fire has now burned over 163,000 acres and sits at just 10% containment (containment entails a physical barrier that stops an ongoing fire from continuing to spread past a designated point).

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In the days ahead, Gov. Inslee warned Washingtonians that the state is “not out of the woods yet.”

“These fires are continuing, the danger is continuing,” he cautioned.

The governor also pointed out that California, Oregon, and Washington are all battling wildfires right now, adding that the three states are in the “same soup of cataclysmic fire.”

For updates regarding ongoing fires across the state, you can monitor them on a live map produced by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources here. You can also monitor air quality from smoke in your area here.

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