history fire deptThe Pendleton Fire and Ambulance Department (PFD) has a long history dating back to just after the formation of the city of Pendleton. Pendleton was settled in 1868 with the site chosen by voters of Umatilla County who wanted a site on the upper Umatilla River between Wildhorse and Birch creeks. In October 1879 citizen’s meetings are held for the purpose of forming a volunteer fire company and on October 25, 1879 the Pendleton Volunteer Fire Department was organized with 43 volunteers signing up the company was named “Protection Number One”. To begin with this company was probably a bucket brigade however, on April 24, 1880 A Mr. S. Rothchild arranged the purchase of a hand pumper from Willamette Fire Co. #1 for the cost of $1500. In July 1880 a water system is built for use of the fire company it consisted of several underground cisterns and wooden pipes fed from the river also in 1880 a hook and ladder outfit built locally at Marshall’s Machine Shop. Around this time a fire alarm system was built using seven large bells placed throughout the city. In July 1880 the oldest house in town burned to the ground due to a shortage of hose of 100’. On October 25, 1880 the City of Pendleton is incorporated and the president of the fire company, Lot Livermore is named mayor. In 1885 the decision was made to replace the hand pumper that had been dubbed “a man killer” with a steam engine and in December 1885 a new Ahrens Steam Engine arrives and is housed in the firehouse behind the courthouse of the time. In addition a new fire bell comprised of 40% silver and 60% bell metal is purchased to replace the old iron bell system.  Somewhere during this time a second fire company was formed in the city of Pendleton called the “Alert Company” and on July 4th 1888 the first annual hose cart races are held between Fire Protection #1 and the Alert Company. In 1899 two new fire companies are added to the department called the “Hook and Ladder Company” and “Clipper Company” the famous Clipper Company from Pendleton held the world record in hose cart racing in 1897 running 200 yards in 24 and 2/5 seconds. 

In 1901 there was 76 volunteers in the Pendleton fire Department and the volunteer chiefs were Frank Dunn, Joe Ell, W.R. Withee and John Vaughn. In 1913 the first motorized piece of apparatus was purchased it was a Seagraves triple combination fire engine. In 1913 after 34 years as an all-volunteer department the first paid department was organized with four paid men Cliff Bellinger was Chief of the department until 1915 when William Ringold was made Chief and held that position until 1931. In 1913 the first street alarm boxes were placed with 13 of them connected to the station.

history station 3In 1921 the first motorized pumper was purchased a 1921 Stutz with a 750 gallon per minute rotary pump and a 150 gallon booster tank this replaced the Seagraves chemical engine also in 1921 a fifth pain fireman was hired. In 1928 the Stutz was no longer operable due to mechanical problems and was replaced by a 1928 Mack 1000 GPM pumper with a centrifugal pump.

In 1931 Chief Ringold retired and was replaced by Calvin Hanlon who serves about a year and in 1932 in replaced by William “Blacky” Batchelor who serves for 35 years. In 1936 a GMC 500 GPM pumper was purchased which was built by Howard Cooper of Walla Walla.

In 1942 the bell alarms are replaced by three sirens located at city hall, Round-Up grounds and the VFW hall. In 1947 three new trucks are purchased from the federal government, two 500 GPM pumpers and a International high pressure truck also an 85 foot aerial ladder truck is ordered.  In 1948 the alarm sirens are replaced by air horns.

In 1950 a Pirsch aerial ladder is delivered with a cost of $24,000, in 1954 a Federal 750 GPM pumper was purchased and in 1956 a rescue truck was purchased. In 1959 a new fire station was built at 911 SW Court, this station is still in use today and serves as the main station and headquarters of the fire department with the opening of the new station several new firefighters were hired

In 1960 a Cardox crash truck is purchased for aircraft fires and the first fire department radio system is purchased it has one base station and receivers in the firefighter’s homes.  In 1967 Chief Batchelor retires and is replaced by Virgil “Butch” Boyd.

In 1972 after a fatal house fire Station #2 is built at 1200 Southgate and the department becomes the Pendleton Fire and Ambulance Department also in 1972 a new fire engine is purchased.

historical station 1In 1980 Chief Boyd retires and is replaced by R.D. Hopper. In 1985/86 two new 1500 GPM Seagraves pumpers are purchased these engines are still in service as reserve trucks in 2012. In 1986 a 1976 Seagraves aerial was purchased from Oak Ridge and was in service until 2005 when the current aerial was purchased.

In 1998 Chief Hopper officially retired but served for several months until John Fowler was hired as Chief in 2000. Chief Fowler served until 2010 and Gary Woodson was hired in November 2010 as Chief and served until 2014 when Jason Walker was hired. I

Material for this glimpse of history was contributed by Ret. Captain Randy Wells.


The Pendleton Fire and Ambulance Department responds to many events each year (see the Call Statistics page for details), but here’s a list of a few significant events from our history:

1866    Hotel burns at Swift & Marshall station

  • 1871    Pendleton’ s first newspaper is destroyed by fire.

  • 1872    IOOF Hall burns

  • 1886    Liberty Hall burns

  • 1889    East Oregonian Building burned, $8000 damages.

  • 1893    Villard Hotel at south Main and Court street burns

  • 1894    Webfoot Saloon Burns

  • 1897    Byers Flour Mill burns at SE Court and 4th, $200,000 in damages.

  • 1899    Golden Rule Hotel burns

  • 1920’s    Meat packing house burns at 1800 Westgate.

  • 1940’s    Round Up grandstands burn one month before Round Up.

  • 1943    Walter’s Flour Mill burns on NW Carden and 14th.

  • 1947    Byers/Western Milling flour mill burns, entire block lost between SE Court and SE Dorian and between SE 4th and Se 5th.

  • 1956    St. Joseph Academy burns near Saint Anthony Hospital

  • 1958    Walter’s mill warehouse burns at NW Carden and 14th

  • 1960    Stangier Building & Opera House burns at 100 block Se Court.

  • October 5, 1969    Ranch Club at 1114 SW Court burns

  • July 7, 1971    Arrow Chevrolet burns in the 300 block of SE Court Ave.

  • 1971    PGG grain elevator and shop burns across from Pendleton flour mills.

  • September 1973    Hill meat burns at Sw 27th and Southgate

  • September 17, 1972    Allied Seed burns to the ground on Rieth road.

  • August 3, 1973    Horse barn burns at Round Up grounds

  • 1980’s    Holiday House Café burns across from Saint Anthony Hospital.

  • Mid 1990’s    Bowling Alley

  • 1999    Woolworth Building burns on Main Street

  • 1999    Roesch building and Raphael’s burns on SE 3rd between Dorian and Court.

  • 1999    Dust storm on I84 caused major pile up which killed many people.

  • February 11, 2006    Fatal explosion at General Aircraft

  • March 15, 2007    Eagles fire burns on SE Frazier from Main to SE 1st.

  • September 18, 2008    Grass fire started by a train near Birch Creek road and Umatilla River , heavy winds blew the fire to McKay Creek neighborhood.

  • July 2011    Dobbins-Hart chemical/hazmat fire at the airport

  • July 2012    Grass fire starts on the north side of Brentwood/South Hill Apartment and strong wind blows the fire south starting two 8 unit buildings on fire.

  • October 2012    Vandals burn the favorite Pioneer Park wooden castle playground.

  • December 2012    Tour Bus carrying 47 passengers rolls on top of cabbage hill