The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

By Jean Flanigen
of Malden 

Malden/Pine City Fire


Last updated 9/17/2020 at 11:37am

“Are you guys ok?”

It’s the first thing we say to each other in the Malden/Pine City area these days. Once that question is answered, it is immediately followed by, “Is your house ok?”

We lost so much on Labor Day. Our community’s heart got burned up.

Malden and Pine City are more than a collection of buildings. They were where we fought for years to get a library and finally got one. It was where we met, all of us for miles around. The Masonic Lodge Hall that burned held every bit of history from Eastern Star Chapters from Malden, LaCrosse, Colfax, Palouse, Oakesdale, Tekoa, St. John, Sprague, Garfield, Rosalia and even Cheney inside. People came from as far south as Colton and north from Spokane to attend meetings there.

What I’m saying is, we lost a vital member of our organization.

Most of the buildings that burned were older. Folks here remember going to them after school when they were little kids and climbing trees on hillsides that are now bare. Malden and Pine City weren’t new, by any means. Both towns have barely survived, like so many in Whitman County. But they survived for a reason. Because people lived there and worked there. We gathered in them to socialize and worship. Christmas will never be the same for those of us who attended, faithfully, every year to hear HisSong in the Old Stone Church in Pine City. Hearing the beautiful, sacred music within those ancient walls is something we simply can’t replace. Oh, we can go across to the Grange Hall, which survived the fire and hold it there but it just won’t be what we have considered the beginning of the Christmas season for sixteen years.

The church survived but Easter egg hunts just won’t be the same without the Community Center to house them and the library with the librarian as a willing participant, keeping the excited children inside with stories until time. The children may no longer be there, as many families in the area were renters. They will have no say over whether their home is rebuilt.

That’s the trouble with this fire and I would imagine there are too many communities that can relate to this; the trouble with any disaster is that it’s not just buildings. It’s not just houses. It’s where new parents brought home a precious baby. It’s where proud Masons have stood for almost a century, We had reading clubs and knitting clubs... we had a life.

Now, there is charred blackness and choking ash every time you move something in your desperate search to find something, anything, Please God!

It brings tears as I write this, as I have been one of those digging through the rubble, brought to a standstill by the tiniest remnant. Like a doorknob.

That doorknob, however, represents hope. I think everyone finds something, their own version of a doorknob, in their search after the devastation. One thing you can cling to and say, “We will rebuild.” I have heard that sentence as often as I have heard “Are you guys ok?” and my heart swells every time I hear it. I’m filled with pride to know these amazing people who have just lost everything and still say it. Sometimes life is hard and sometimes it jumps up and down on your head. This is one of those jump on your head times.

And yet, I see my neighbors and friends, lifting their heads, even with their cheeks wet with tears and saying, “We will rebuild.” I say it with them.


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