The Grain Craft flour mill in Pendleton was destroyed in a fire that erupted Wednesday morning.
As of 7:30 a.m. Thursday morning, firefighters from Pendleton Fire and Ambulance were still on the scene of the fire and several blocks near the mill were closed to through traffic, according to Facebook updates from the Pendleton Police Department.
No injuries have been reported at the facility, which employs 22 people.
A press release issued by the city Thursday says firefighters “are going to have more long days ahead of them before this incident is over” due to “the size of the building, the material inside, and the lack of safe access.” The East Oregonian reports that the building burst into flames at about 4:30 a.m., though at 2:50 p.m. Tuesday firefighters responded to a plume of white smoke at the mill.
Pendleton assistant fire chief Tony Pierotti told The East Oregonian that the mill’s silos were full of finished grain, so the fire fuel load was extreme. Pendleton police chief Chuck Byram told The Capital Press the fire was caused by mechanical failure.
Authorities are describing the building as a total loss and as of Thursday were keeping the area clear in anticipation of the possible collapse of the building.
A spokesperson for Grain Craft told The Capital Press the company is working with farmers to handle supply following the fire, which came in the middle of the wheat harvest. Jeremy Bunch, CEO of Shepherd’s Grain, a farmer-owned flour company, said there would be an interruption in flour supply as the company works to get wheat staged for movement to another mill.
“We are heartbroken by the fire that erupted at the Grain Craft flour mill in Pendleton,” reads a statement from Oregon Wheat Growers League President Ben Maney Wednesday. “These silos are a reflection of many years of hard work, time, and dedication from not only our wheat producers and their families, but also the team at Grain Craft Flour.”
“The Pendleton flour mill began operation more than 100 years ago, and it was not only an important component in of providing our customers flour, but it was also a significant piece of history for the city of Pendleton and for the milling industry,” says a press release issued by Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Grain Craft and shared by police Thursday. “All of us at Grain Craft are heartbroken by the events of yesterday.”
Grain Craft is the third largest flour miller in the United States. The company was acquired by Redwood Capital Investments at the end of June.
Oregon is the 11th largest U.S. producer of wheat, which is the state's third largest cash crop, according to the Oregon Wheat Growers League. As much as 90% of wheat produced in Oregon is shipped to overseas markets, primarily in Asia.
Oregon Business originally published this article.