Elderly couple killed inside their Hahira home - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Elderly couple killed inside their Hahira home

By Jade Bulecza - bio | email

HAHIRA, GA (WALB) –An elderly couple was killed in a fire at their Hahira home.

It's a heartbreaking story, a 74 year old woman died trying to save her disabled husband.

Firefighters tried to save the couple, but the intense fire prevented them from getting to the victims in time.

An elderly couple died in house fire Wednesday in their home off Blakely Street. Authorities say it looked like 74-year old Arletha Ratliff was in the back bedroom trying to save her husband, 84-year old Willie who was in a hospital bed. He was a double amputee.

"I could sit here on the porch and see it," said neighbor John W. Troy Jr.

 Troy Junior saw the fire and hoped the two were not inside.

"She worked hard," said Troy. "She and my wife used to work at Smith when the hospital was in Hahira."

Willie Ratliff's family was at the home Thursday talking to investigators and salvaging what they could in disbelief. They were too upset to go on camera, but we did find out that Ratliff was a World War II veteran. He's pictured here with one of his many children.

"His boys grew up to be good men one of them, his grandson, a pro-ball player," said Troy.

Jay Ratliff graduated from Lowndes High school and plays for the Dallas Cowboys.

Authorities believe the fire was caused by an electrical shortage in the washing machine.

Hahira police got to the scene first.

"PD was talking to the victims then we knew we had a good chance of getting in and getting them out but the fire conditions were so extreme," said Hahira Fire Chief Dwight Bennett.

The fire chief says it took the firefighters three attempts to get inside because of the heavy fire, smoke and 1,500 degree temperatures.

"It just took awhile to get in and locate them and by that time they passed away," said Chief Bennett.

It's a difficult time for the close-knit Hahira community as they mourn the loss of Arletha and Willie Ratliff. Neigbors like John Troy hope the family can find peace.

If you have a disabled family member, the fire chief recommends you make sure his or her bedroom is close to an exit and he reminds you to check your smoke detectors regularly.

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