A roaring fire of suspicious origin swept through wheat stubble north of Pendleton in August 1941, scorching a wide swath but causing little damage.
The fire started in the middle of a field on the Meeker farm at about 7:45 p.m. Aug. 21, 1941. The first flames were so far from the road fire crews thought it next to impossible the fire could have started accidentally. A United Airlines flight coming in for a landing at the Pendleton airport was asked to circle the fire and report on its size by Pendleton Fire Chief Blackie Batchelor.
By 9 p.m. the fire was burning fiercely, but a light breeze fanned the flames away from Pendleton’s North Hill water reservoir and homes in the area. The flames burned up to the fence surrounding the Civil Aeronautics Authority’s radio towers, but a fire guard kept the buildings and towers safe.
As the fire spread, eating into stubble on the neighboring Jones estate, flames were leaping several yards into the air and lighting up the entire countryside. Hundreds of Pendleton residents drove to the scene to watch the blaze, which lasted throughout the night and burned a third of Jones’ acreage. The fire, which eventually consumed 1,000 acres of stubble, was put out the following day and did little damage.
A more destructive fire was started earlier the same day by children playing with matches in a woodshed behind the home of George Bradley on Southwest Eighth Street. Flames were beginning to spread to the roof of Bradley’s home when the fire department showed up and knocked it down. Losses were minimal: books, furniture and keepsakes stored in the shed, and minor water damage to the house. ‘
Chief Batchelor warned parents to talk to their children about playing with matches, since often children’s clothing catches fire — sometimes with fatal results.