Malden is a tiny farming town amidst eastern Washington’s “oceans of wheat fields.”
Or it was.
When a wind-driven firestorm raced into town on Labor Day, James Jacobs and most of the town's some 300 other residents lost their homes.
"Everything's gone," Jacobs says. "Everything is completely lost."
Like many others in Malden, which skewed older and lower income, Jacobs didn't have insurance. The 2020 wildfire season is the latest troubling reminder that disasters unfairly hit society's most vulnerable. On the West Coast, it's thought that thousands of people are still lacking even just basic, temporary housing.
With help from the Red Cross, Jacobs stayed in a hotel in nearby Spokane for five days after the fire but is now back at his property trying to figure out next steps.
Jacobs, who is in his 80s, is gaunt and his wrinkled face is worn with stress. He and his wife, who's recovering from a stroke, moved to Malden in 1994. It was an affordable place to retire: a friendly town in a pine forested gulch surrounded by farms.