John McKay
John McKay

Officials with Avista Power of Spokane, who supply most of the electricity down through Whitman County, now say a downed power line taken out by a tree was the culprit in the horrific fire Labor Day that burned down 80 percent of the town of Malden.

In fact, according to the Spokesman Review Newspaper, some staff writers who were covering the aftermath of the fire found a burned tree with a power cable underneath or nearby. Avista officials and other investigators say the 50 plus MPH winds blew down a number of trees.

One of the pine trees took out a power line, and the sparking ignited the dry fuel on the ground. Then the winds pushed the wall of flame to and through the town. Many area residents said they'd never seen winds THAT bad, and never seen fires that massive.

It was kind of a 'perfect' storm scenario.

The replacement and repairs of the power grid continues, but no outages are expected. Officials are expected to make some modifications based upon what they've learned from the blaze and how it happened.

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