Another house fire drove out another local family.
The blaze erupted Tuesday around 9:55 a.m. in the one-story manufactured home of Michael and Jackie Whitesall at 45542 Mission Road, a few miles east of Pendleton.
According to Kricket Nicholson, Jackie’s mother, the fire was ignited when a heat lamp warming chicks fell into the sawdust in a closet area and spread to clothes.
Jackie went for a fire extinguisher, saw the flames were too big and turned her attention to getting the five children, ages 2-13, out of the home.
The Whitesells have three children of their own and are taking care of two children of a neighbor who is in the hospital. All five children are home schooled.
The Umatilla Tribal Fire Department arrived minutes after the fire started and were the first on the scene, then called for help from the Pendleton Fire Department, which responded with a water tender and a fire engine and crew.
Flames burst from the home’s windows, and gray and black smoke covered the area, a pastoral scene where locals raise sheep and keep horses.
Randy Burke, shift captain with the Umatilla Tribal Fire Department, said the fire was already going strong when the crew arrived. Firefighters tried an interior attack, he said, but the heat and intensity proved too dangerous and the crew got out.
Moments later, he said, black powder for reloading ammunition exploded in the home. Burke said that was a scary moment in an overall intense fire.
Firefighters could no longer work inside the house, he said, and concentrated efforts on the outside. Crews continued their attack until a little past noon.
Jackie and the children took shelter at the nearby bus barns operated by Mid Columbia Bus Co.
“The people at the bus barns were just amazing,” Nicholson said, and provided pizza and drinks for the family. “They’re in good spirits and they’re all OK.”
Michael was in La Grande with his National Guard unit, she said, and came back as soon as he heard.
The Pendleton Baptist Church, along with Pilot Rock Baptist Church and others, are helping the family, Nicholson said. The Pendleton church is the center for donations.
The family may move into a trailer and live on their property. They have two new lambs and a third on the way, and want to be there to take care of them.
This is the fifth house fire local agencies fought in less than two weeks.