Georgia man killed in campfire accident, state officials say

(Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John F. King)

State officials said a freak accident led to the death of a man sitting by a campfire in Heard County.

The body of 71-year-old Robert Ratliff Jr. was found on Saturday at a campground in the 12000 block of Highway 100 in Franklin, the Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John F. King reported Monday.

The property owner returned from a hunting trip to the camp around 7 p.m. to find the man’s body near a tree and the woods on fire, state officials said.

Heard County deputies arrived and used a fire extinguisher to put out the blaze. They then discovered Ratliff’s phone and wallet in the fire.

 “Our investigators believe Mr. Ratliff was getting out of his camping chair when he stumbled into the fire,” said Commissioner King. “This freak accident gives us heavy hearts as we pray for the loved ones impacted and we continue to investigate this case.”

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The property owner said the man had been staying on the property for the past two weeks.

This marks the 75th fire fatality in Georgia during 2020.

State officials are assisting the Heard County Sheriff’s Office, Heard County Fire Department, Heard County Coroner’s Office, and Forestry Unit on the case.