Lafayette County, Missouri House Fire Claims Life

BATES CITY, Mo. -- Lafayette County resident Denise Denham woke up about 4:15 a.m. Wednesday to the sound of frantic pounding on her door.

It was her teenage neighbor, yelling that the neighbors house was on fire and her sister was trapped inside.

It was totally in blazes, Denham said. There just wasnt anything we could do.

Evette Ratliff, 20, was found dead in the basement.

The fire occurred in the 1600 block of Cumberland Road, which is south of Bates City. Damage was so extensive that only scraps of the house remain the charred foundation and a few rafters.

The blaze melted three cars parked nearby.

Fire Chief John VanGorkum, of the Sni Valley Fire Protection District, said the fire was so intense that officials may never learn what caused it.

Firefighters had to make sure the blaze didnt spread because a propane tank was in the yard, about 50 feet from the home.

Ratliffs parents and her sister escaped without injuries.

Evette Ratliff graduated from Oak Grove High School in 2003.

Randy McClain, who then was the assistant superintendent of Oak Grove schools, said he remembers Ratliff as an energetic, happy student.

She was a high school cheerleader, McClain said. She had a bubbly personality and a bright smile. She always walked with a smile.

Distributed by the Associated Press