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Investigators determine cause of fire at Lee Mace’s Ozark Opry

A piece of local history went up in flames Sunday and now many are left with only memories.

Multiple fire crews were called to Lee Mace’s Ozark Opry Sunday morning for reports of smoke and fire coming from the building.

The State Fire Marshal was investigating the cause Sunday night, but crews at the scene said the fire appeared to have started in the attic.

An extension cord plugged into a recording device in the old booth was identified as the cause.

The first crews got to the scene on Highway 54 in Osage Beach just after 11:20 a.m., and reported heavy fire and smoke from the roof.

Osage Beach fire chief Jeff Dorhauer told ABC 17 News at the scene that the building suffered heavy smoke and water damage but was still structurally sound. City inspectors would be checking the former theater Monday.

Crews from Osage Beach, MidCounty, Eldon, Lake Ozark and Camdenton had the fire under control by 1 p.m. but would remain on scene for several hours for investigation.

Although the building has been out of use for about seven years, many still consider it huge loss to the community. It has been an icon for the last 60 years.

Even though the building is still standing, the inside is in ruins from the fire, smoke, and water. It’s a site hard to see for those who spent their lives there making history.

“Ozark Opry is an icon, it was the first show of its type in the country,” said Jim Phinney who spent much of his life working at the Ozark Opry.

While it’s always been an area staple and stood a test of time, it all came to an end Sunday morning.

“It’s a very serious loss, it is an icon in the community, and has historic significance,” said Gene William who is cousins with the building’s owner.

As fire fighters worked to salvage the historic place, those who spent years there watched and remembered.

“We are a piece of history, we are the grand daddy of this type of show…. We had among our job descriptions was to help folks have a good time, and to have fun, I think hows it get better than that,” said Phinney.

After decades of shows, family fun, and even a wedding, the opry closed back in 2005. However, as the fire spread through the building, the same stage stood standing.

“The stage for example was pretty much as it was left at the last show and a lot of recording equipment, sound equipment, lighting equipment that sort of thing,” said Williams.

As of Sunday night it was not clear how extensive the damage was, but those who love the Opry aren’t giving up just yet. “We will asses the damage and determine whether or not the building can be restored,” said Williams.

The fire was so large Osage Beach fire department had to call in crews from five different areas to help.

Crews said it was especially dangerous because flames were concentrated up in the attic.

As of Sunday night crews did not know what started the fire, however they said they are not ruling anything out.

The building did just get a new rood and fire fighters told ABC 17 News it was structurally sound as of Sunday night. Currently fire crews don’t have a dollar damage amount.

There was no official damage cost amount Sunday evening, but crews said the fire had been large enough to call three alarms.

Stay with ABC 17 News and for updates as they become available.

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