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How SpaceX brought the Internet back to the fire-ravaged city of Washington

SpaceX is providing aid to Malden with its satellite network. (WA Emergency Management Department, Twitter)

With the city of Malden, Washington almost completely destroyed by the recent fires, Washington’s emergency management department has received help from an unexpected source in SpaceX.

History ablaze in Whitman County as wildfires decimate Malden

The company offered to use its Starlink Internet provided by satellites orbiting the planet to provide public Internet access to Malden and Lake Bonney. According to a report from Geekwire, SpaceX offers this service for free.

Fires that broke out around Labor Day destroyed about 80% of Malden̵

7;s standing structures and burned hundreds of acres in the Lake Bonney area for days. On TwitterSpaceX founder Elon Musk noted that the company “is prioritizing rescuers and places without Internet connectivity.”

SpaceX’s Starlink broadband internet currently uses more than 600 satellites in low Earth orbit, eventually hoping to provide broadband access around the world. The satellites themselves are actually also made in Washington, manufactured at SpaceX’s Redmond facility.

Speaking about the possibility of using satellites for future crises, the state’s emergency management department hinted at their usefulness in a variety of possible scenarios.

“This is a device that we could definitely use in the event of even bigger disasters, (like) a Cascadia subduction earthquake, where (communication) problems would be a huge obstacle,” the department said on Twitter.

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