Courtesy of Western Taney County Fire Protection District, and Southern Stone County Fire Protection District
Monday was an active day for area firefighters, with two blazes. One of those blazes was fatal to two women.
Western Taney County Fire Chief Chris Berndt reported that crews were dispatched around 5:45 p.m. on Monday, April 24 and found a duplex on fire at 142 Travis Trail, Branson which is in the unincorporated portion of Taney County. While responding, crews were advised that two elderly women were upstairs in the house. E62 was the first engine on scene.
The smoke and fire was still active. The siding was melting at the next door duplex.
One firefighter pulled a line to protect the neighbors house while the rest of the crew went upstairs and removed two elderly women from the building.
They found Elva “Helen” Harpole, 90, dead inside the home. Her daughter Lorene “Rene” Ray 70, was rescued and transported to Mercy Hospital in Springfield with life threatening injuries. Ray died shortly after arriving at the hospital. The women’s two pet dogs also died in the fire.
Two people in the adjoining duplex escaped without injury.
The fire was brought under control in 30 minutes. The State Fire Marshal is investigating the cause of the fire, though firefighers at the scene said the cause of the fire does not appear suspicious.
Autopsies on the two women are scheduled for today to determine the manner and cause of death.
Earlier in the day on Monday, units from the Southern Stone County Fire Protection District responded to a vehicle fire on Highway 160 just south of Coon Ridge Road.
SSCFPD Public Information Officer Eric Nielsen says that the vehicle was a tractor belonging to the Stone County Road Department.
While mowing the southbound shoulder of the road, the operator noticed smoke coming from the tractor, which then ignited.
Southern Stone County Fire Protection District fire crews used foam to extinguish the fire. With the assistance of an environmental response team from Springfield, water mixed with foam was then used to contain hydraulic fluid and diesel fuel leaking from the tractor.
The driver of the tractor was not injured.