Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Man badly burned in hay barn fire

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Staff Writer | 3/19/2012

GARNETT — A series of explosions early Sunday tipped Christy Ratliff’s world upside down.

She said her husband, Ron Ratliff, 51, suffered burns over 30 percent of his body when he heard explosions and ran to salvage equipment from a burning hay barn at their home on the outskirts of Garnett at 23474 Northwest 1700 Road.

GARNETT — A series of explosions early Sunday tipped Christy Ratliff’s world upside down.

She said her husband, Ron Ratliff, 51, suffered burns over 30 percent of his body when he heard explosions and ran to salvage equipment from a burning hay barn at their home on the outskirts of Garnett at 23474 Northwest 1700 Road.

“We heard a loud boom. And another boom. And another boom,” Christy Ratliff said of the explosions that jarred the sleeping couple awake about 1 a.m. Sunday. “The tires on a couple of Bobcats in the barn were exploding. Ron ran into the barn to try and save some equipment. I think it was just an adrenaline rush.”

The heat from the blaze, which was so intense it melted the barn’s metal beams, caused burns on Ratliff’s hands and arms above the elbows, as well as on his legs below the knees and on his back, a weary-sounding Christy Ratliff said Monday afternoon.

Ratliff was transported to the burn unit at the University of Kansas Hospital, Kansas City, Kan., where he was diagnosed with primarily second-degree burns on nearly one-third of his body, his wife said.

“I was told [by doctors] that he could be in the burn unit for four to six weeks,” Ratliff said of her husband’s injuries.

The Ratliffs, owners of the Anderson County Sales Company, own and operate the sale barn in Garnett.

Determined to persevere, Christy Ratliff said sales at the barn would continue as scheduled this week, including one of miscellaneous items that will start about 9 a.m. today, followed by a 1 p.m. cattle sale at the barn, 430 N. Maple St. A cow sale will take place 7 p.m. Friday at the barn, and Ratliff said she has a farm sale at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

Ratliff said the fire, which broke out in the back of the metal barn, appeared to be sparked by an electrical malfunction. Firefighters from five area stations in Garnett, Harris, Westphalia, Welda and Lane battled the blaze, she said. A representative from Anderson County Fire District No. 1 could not be reached Monday afternoon.

Ratliff said the barn was a total loss. She said the two Bobcat front-end loaders also were destroyed inside the barn, along with about $27,000 worth of hay and other equipment. A total damage estimate had not yet been determined Monday.

“The fire was so intense. It took a lot of water to put it out. Firefighters were here from about 1 until noon Sunday,” Ratliff said.

Ratliff said well-wishers who want to send cards to her husband can do so in care of the burn unit: Burnett Burn Center, University of Kansas Hospital, 3901 Rainbow Blvd., Kansas City KS 66103.

Ratliff described the exploding tires that awakened the couple as a cruel turn of fate.

“Someone said to me that it was a good thing the explosions woke us up, but I don’t think so,” Ratliff said. “I would have rather the barn burned down while we were sleeping than have my husband in the burn unit.”

Doug Carder is a Herald staff writer. Email him at dcarder@ottawaherald.com

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