Pendleton Flour Mill fire affects nearby local businesses

PENDLETON, Wash. — Tuesday afternoon, there was a fire at the Pendleton Flour Mills. Crews put out the fire, but on Wednesday morning, they rushed back to the scene. There, they found the mill on fire once again, reaching high above the building.

Fire crews from nine different agencies stayed on scene Wednesday for hours working to bring it down. Officials said it’s a complete loss.

“There’s hundreds of thousands of pounds of finished product in there, and so there was always the concern of a major explosion,” said Pendleton Chief of Police, Charles Byram. He said the cause was a mechanical failure in the equipment room of the mill. With a combination of that failure and the grain and dust, it was a recipe for disaster.

A piece of historic Pendleton, having opened in the early 1900s, officials said the mill itself is unsalvageable.

“The chance of getting that thing rebuilt and up and running to its former glory is probably zero.” James Naughton is a business owner a few blocks from the flour mill at Zimmerman True Value Hardware. When he arrived at work, he noticed the smoke. Not long after, the whole building was aflame. “Before the sun came out, I could feel the heat on my face. It was pretty wild.”

For some local shops, this fire is a detriment to their business.

“I can tell you that our business is, you know, not what I had expected it to be. I think that you know, this is somewhat of a distraction, but also a lot of people just can’t get to us,” said Naughton. And he said not only his business is affected, but also ones closer to the fire. “That would be pretty scary to be that close to that and you know, have your whole livelihood there and not knowing if it’s going to be there when you get back.”

Chief Byram said the surrounding businesses will have smoke damage from the intense flames, and water damage from the crews efforts to put it out.

Around 11 a.m. Wednesday, Chief Byram said, “We think that we’re on the downhill slide on this right now, but you never know what’s going to happen. It’s unpredictable because there’s still so much product in there.”

A representative from Grain Craft said they can’t comment on what’s next for the company in Pendleton.

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