Sunday fire destroys disabled woman’s home in Longrun

Despite the efforts of volunteer firefighters from Thornfield, Theodosia, Timber Knob, Wasola and Pontiac Price Place, the remote Longrun-area home of Linda Worner was a total loss Sunday afternoon. Worner lost almost all her possessions, including her motorized wheelchair, which is thought to have caused the fire when a short occurred in the charging cord. Firefighters pictured: Capt. Tracy Meal, TAVFD, front; from back, right: Roger Sanders, TAVFD; Lt. Craig Mierkowski, TAVFD; and Brett Meints, Thornfield VFD. Photo courtesy Lt. Craig Mierkowski, TAVFD.

Disabled Longrun resident Linda Worner lost her home to a Sunday afternoon fire that was apparently caused by her motorized wheelchair. 

Worner’s neighbor, Boyd Garrison, a Theodosia Area Volunteer Fire Department board member, looks out for Worner, who has no vehicle that runs. “I just hate to see someone who can’t get around,” Garrison told the Times Monday.

He was feeding cattle Sunday afternoon when Worner called him and said her wheelchair was smoking. 

“I said, ‘OK, I’m feeding hay. It’ll be just a little bit.’ I was about 2 or 3 miles away from her house on the backside of the property when she called. Then she called me back and said the house was filling with smoke, and she asked who she should call. I told her to call 911,” Garrison said. He then rushed to Worner’s home. 

“I pulled in and saw that the house was on fire inside. The living room had a lot of smoke, and I could see a little bit of fire. My heart sunk. I thought she hadn’t gotten out,” he said. 

“I hollered at the door, and she hollered back at me. She was sitting on the back porch. She isn’t really mobile, but she can stand up and maybe take a step or two. I guess when you’re scared you can do a lot, though, so she had worked her way out to the back porch. If I hadn’t got there when I did, I don’t know if she could have went any farther.” 

Worner worried that her dogs and cats were still in the house. Garrison got her off the back deck and helped her into his pickup and pulled it out of the way. “The electricity was already off when I got there, so there was no water hose or other water to try to put it out until the fire department got there,” he said. 

Worner lives off County Road 915. “It’s a really rough, old road,” Garrison said, so it took awhile for firefighters to get there. The house was fully involved by the time the first TAVFD equipment arrived, after being toned out at 3:15 p.m. The house is technically in the Thornfield VFD district, but Theodosia Area VFD was first on the scene. Pontiac / Price Place, Timber Knob and Wasola VFDs also responded.

Thornfield VFD board president Larry Tucker said the Ozark County Sheriff’s Department also responded to the fire, along with Ozark County Ambulance and the American Red Cross. “We had great support, and we’re thankful for the help from all the other departments and everyone who helped.” 

 TAVFD information officer Tracy Meal said the VFW  in Isabella made dinner for the firefighters, and Timber Knob VFD volunteers brought the food to the very remote and muddy fire site. 

“Two departments (TAVFD and TVFD) fought the fire, and the other departments shuttled water in tankers to the scene from Theodosia,” Meal said, adding that one of the challenges was keeping the heavy firetrucks and equipment from getting stuck in the thick mud. 

Firefighters remained on the scene until after midnight, said TAVFD Lt. Craig Mierkowski. The house is a total loss, Garrison said. 

The Red Cross and firefighters helped Worner settle temporarily into a cabin in a field on her property. The cabin doesn’t have electricity but may have some solar panels to provide limited power, Garrison said. He added, however, that Worner had texted him at 3:20 a.m. Monday saying her phone was dying, and she didn’t have a cord to charge it with.

“All her medicine burned up. She was calling the pharmacy trying to get it refilled,” he said. Her wheelchair and all her belongings were also destroyed. Garrison thought that one small dog may have died in the fire. “The big dogs were outside,” he said. 

Worner had been having some trouble with her motorized wheelchair and “thought she could fix it by taping the wires back together,” Garrison said. A short in the wires may have sparked the house fire while the wheelchair was charging.

The Times contacted Worner Monday, but she was unable to talk more than a few seconds because her phone was losing power, and she said she was waiting on a call from the Red Cross. Garrison said he would be checking on her.  

Ozark County Times

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