Water heater upper element shorted?

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65635, Missouri
I replaced the lower element about 3 weeks ago. We did it right, let the tank fill up for 30 mins before flipping power back on and everything. It has been working great. This is the upper element I woke up to this morning around 3am. We thought our house was on fire it smelled so bad. I flipped the breaker off this morning before heading to work. I can replace parts, just wondering what would have caused this? The water heater is nearing 15 years old. We're actually selling/closing on this house in less than a month, so I hate to replace the whole tank, but if it's needed I guess we will do that. Just looking for some advice from people smarter than me. Thanks! :)

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