USA-LAURIE, Mo. — A family home, five vehicles, and shop equipment were destroyed and a beloved dog was killed in a fire that stretched across a 10-acre valley, crossing multiple fire districts on Monday, Dec. 11.
The blaze was off Lake Road 5-27, in both Sunrise Beach and Laurie, and destroyed the home of Mr. and Mrs. Roy Nelson.
Due to the size of the fire, Sunrise Beach and Gravois fire departments recalled off-duty personnel to cover stations and battle the fire that was rapidly spreading southeast through a deep valley. The fire spread across Stolen Ranch, Hidden Ranch, Lamp and Crazy Horse Roads. Mutual aid was requested from the Mid County and the Northwest Fire Protection Districts.
High winds spread the fire—which started at the home—to outbuildings and then into wildlands.
“Sunrise Fire had received the initial call to a wildland fire, and looking across the valley they discovered the origin of the fire, in a structure within our district,” GFPD Fire Chief Ed Hancock said. “They deployed additional units and radioed us to respond.”
Fire In Laurie
Gravois firefighters received the call at 12:05 p.m. Arriving units found the home at 273 Stolen Ranch Road, Laurie, engulfed in flames. A total of 14 apparatus and 25 personnel responded.
“The initial attack was multi-pronged,” Chief Hancock said. The home was already a loss, so crews began to work to stop the advance of the fire throughout the property and into the woods. Sunrise Beach was operating simultaneously at the opposite side of the valley. Water was relayed and pumped from a distance.
According to Chief Hancock, everything on the Nelson property was destroyed in the fire. Firefighters spent a lengthy amount of time overhauling the scene, sorting through construction equipment and materials, to ensure the fire was extinguished.
GFPD Firefighters cleared the scene at 7:15 p.m.
The cause of fire is under investigation by the State Fire Marshal, but will most likely never be known, due to the extent of the damage. “The homeowners said they were not burning outside, but they do heat with wood. It is possible an ember kicked out from the flue,” Chief Hancock said.
A GoFundMe Page has been started to help the Nelson family, and there will be a fundraiser on Thursday, Dec. 14, at JJ’s At The Copper Pot in Laurie to help the family as well. Donations can also be made through Share The Harvest Food Pantry.
High Fire Hazard – No Burning
Central and southern Missouri are in a drought, with less than half an inch of rainfall in November and so far only one rainfall event that produced less than half an inch in December, according to the National Weather Service. The NWS issued a high fire hazard warning on Tuesday, Dec. 12, lowered from the red flag condition on the extremely windy Monday, Dec. 11, due to decreased wind speeds.
Most of the state is rated as a high fire hazard, and a few spots are very high. “You should not burn anytime there are winds over 10 mph,” Chief Hancock warned. This warning includes Benton, Camden, Miller, Morgan and Laclede counties.
According to the NWS, elevated wind conditions will exist on Wednesday, Dec. 13, as the relative humidity drops and winds pick up. Ultimately, the southern Missouri drought is expected to worsen over the next week or two, as no precipitation chances are in the seven-day forecast.
The Gravois Fire Protection District is actively seeking volunteer firefighters. According to Chief Hancock, the district currently has 10 volunteer, 10-shift firefighters, and two officers. The 10-shift firefighters float, four at a time. “We could use at least 20 trained volunteer firefighters right now,” Chief Hancock said.
As an example, Chief Hancock had eight of his firefighters working just on pumping water to the scene of the Stolen Ranch Road and valley fire. One engineer worked the tanker on the ground, one firefighter worked the dump tank, and six firefighters were driving tankers back and forth from the dump site. “That was eight firefighters not fighting fire,” Chief Hancock said.
The district invites interested persons to attend a free basic firefighter course, to be held by the GFPD in January 2018. “The course will also be good for those who don’t necessarily want to be a firefighter, but who want to help to their community in an emergency,” Chief Hancock said.
The minimum requirements for a volunteer firefighter include: be at least 18 years old, live in the fire district, have a valid driver’s license, no felony convictions, or convictions of crimes against persons. Information and an application are available online at gravoisfire.org, or at the GFPD Station No. 5.
The basic firefighter course is a preliminary for all volunteers. The district has plans to staff another station in 2020. “It is good to get certified. This puts you in the position to apply for a career position,” Chief Hancock said. The district offers courses for Firefighter 1 and 2 and EMS First Responder State Certification. “It is good to volunteer and start establishing a reputation for yourself. It will also help neighboring districts to become aware of you,” Chief Hancock said. For more information call the GFPD at 573-374-4442.