Community reflects on loss from fire (East Oregonian story)

 The offices of the Oregon East Symphony

Community reflects on loss from fire (update #3)By Samantha Bates
of the East Oregonian
As the afternoon wore on, firefighters battled flames and smoke on Main Street, people gathered close to the police lines to get a look at the flames licking the air above the building, even as smoke blew south across the open lot across Frazer Avenue.“I can’t believe they can put that much water on it and it’s still burning,” said Leonard Rydell, who began watching around 5 p.m. after seeing the smoke from the Pendleton Convention Center.Firefighters attacked the flames from tall ladders on both sides of the building. Main Street and Frazer Avenue began to fill with water as the storm drains tried to keep up with the fire hoses.

“I admire the fire department,” Rydell said. “It’s amazing a fire can burn that hot and keep going.”

Keri Clark-Ware said before she moved to Pendleton, she worked as a volunteer firefighter for nine years in Baker County.

“It’s probably the worst I’ve seen.” she said, looking at the smoke and flames from Main Street.

She and her daughter, Hanna Myers, came downtown after seeing the smoke from their home.

“I heard a fire truck and ambulance,” Myers said.

Then she saw the smoke.

“I thought it was a fire, but I didn’t think it was this big of a fire,” she said.

But the flames meant even more to the people who spent time in the Eagle’s Lodge, the Pendleton Coffee Bean, Smith’s Boot & Shoe Repair and the Oregon East Symphony office. All of which have been lost to the fire, officials said.

“It’s sad to see because I’ve belonged to this lodge for the last 45 years,” said Lucien Compere, grandfather in the Eagles Lodge. “There goes my life.”

Compere said he participated in meetings every month, taco night on Tuesdays, hamburger night on Thursdays and karaoke and dances on Friday and Saturday.

“It’s like a home away from home for everybody,” said Birchie Westerlund, another Eagle.

“It’s pretty sad,” said Becky Marks, who also is an Eagle. “All the history that’s gone.”

She said inside the building were photos of past presidents dating back to the late 1800s, trophies and a large stuffed eagle, all of which she said couldn’t be replaced.

Jerry Wash, head trustee with the Eagles, said the loge dated back at least until the beginning of the 20th century. He said they are unsure what will happen to the Eagles from here.

“We won’t let it discourage us,” said Westerlund.

Other people were amazed but not discouraged by the fire.

“We haven’t lived here long,” said Roger Harwerth, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. “This is the first big fire we’ve seen.”

Harwerth also sings with the Oregon East Symphony. He said he was unsure if the damage to the organization’s office would affect the group.

Michelle Kajikawa, director of the Oregon East Symphony said though there may be material loss, she expects the community to support the group.

“The symphony is much larger than that building,” she said. “We’re very hopeful. We’re going to rebuild.”

Of the things lost, she listed 20 years of records and archives and a music library. Fortunately, she said they were able to save the most valuable instrument in the office, a cello belonging to music director Kenneth Woods.

Marilyn Anderson, owner of the Main Street Diner and Pendleton Popcorn, said she sympathized with the owners of the Pendleton Coffee Bean.

“I feel really bad this happened through no fault of their own,” she said.

Upon hearing the fire may have started from a popcorn maker, she said it made her think twice about her business.

“How easily that could have happened to us,” she said.

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at

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1 comment on “Community reflects on loss from fire (East Oregonian story)”

  1. Pingback: Kenneth Woods- a view from the podium » Archivio » More on the Elgar fiasco

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