Fire Kills Elderly Woman, Severely Burns Husband, And Destroys Home

It was a house fire that killed an East Texas woman and severely burned her husband.   Investigators say it broke out Friday afternoon in the bedroom of the couple's home on County Road 4507 near Ben Wheeler.   Neighbors say they heard an explosion and then saw the house go up in flames. Saturday, they still can't believe it happened.

Plumes of smoke and flattened walls -- that was the scene Friday at the couple's home

Saturday morning, all that's left is charred remains that investigators are once again sifting through, even in sheets of melting snow, trying to figure out what caused such a blaze.

"It's one of the hardest things that we can investigate and try to put the pieces together of what happened. We have nobody to talk to, to see what happened inside the house to get their story," says Chuck Allen, an arson investigator with the Van Zandt County Sheriff's Office.

It's because one of the victims, an elderly woman, died in the fire and the other, her husband, is unconscious, after trying to save his disabled wife from the burning home.

"She was in the yard, is where she was found, my understanding is that the older gentleman had pulled her from the house to the front yard where she was found," Allen adds.

Neighbors say the couple was Don and Polly Gordon. They were in their 80s and had been married for more than a 60 years.

"Married 63 years, and they loved each other very much, took care of each other," said Connie Collins, who lives across the street from the home.

Thomas Struble has been their neighbor for the past 13 years. He saw them almost every day and now he'll be taking care of their two remaining dogs.

"Well it's just kind of hard to believe, you know, you see them one day and their gone the next," he says. "They were really good people, in the community, they'd help you any way they could. They were friendly."

And now as investigators rummage through the pieces, it's the neighbors who are the ones left picking them up.

Investigators say a cause is still undetermined, but they did add a propane heater was found in the home.

They are also trying to understand how the woman died.  Her body's been sent for an autopsy. As for the man, he's listed in critical condition at a hospital in Dallas.

Tracy Watler, Reporting.

Tracy Watler/Reporting: