Barn Fire In Central Minnesota Leaves 1 Dead, Several Injured

14 June 2022

FORESTON, Minn. (WCCO) — A central Minnesota man is fighting for his life after being caught in a devastating fire with several family members. His stepbrother didn’t survive.

The fire happened in a barn in Foreston three weeks ago. Ralph Swarm, his son, Eric, and four other family members and friends were on the second story working to repair the barn’s roof.

Eric says a fallen ember from a cigarette caught and started a small fire.

“They started to try to kick it out, my dad gave it a good stomp,” Eric said. “When he lifted his foot up, a big 6-foot flame came up and instantly he was pretty much engulfed. I think the second floor was up in less than a minute, flames everywhere.”

Eric made it out with second- and third-degree burns on his arms. Ralph was severely burned on most of his body and died three days later.

Ralph’s stepbrother, Rick Scharber, is now in the ICU with renal failure, having endured nine surgeries since the fire.

(credit: CBS)

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through in my life,” said Linda Erickson, Scharber’s daughter. “They gave him about a 50-percent chance of surviving this.”

The big family is leaning on each other, made stronger by this tragedy.

“You never think your life would change in a minute,” Eric said.

A memorial cross has been put up on the spot near the barn where Ralph was dragged to when the others were finally able to help him out of the barn.

Ralph’s niece, Melissa Walker, says her uncle pushed her down the stairs after he caught fire, saving her life. She called 911.

“I can’t tell you one person who didn’t like my dad,” Eric said. “He’s always a talker, he was the icebreaker, biggest smile, biggest hug.”

The other friends and family in the fire suffered minor burns, broken bones and other injuries.

They’re raising money to replace what was lost, and for gas to visit Rick in his Minneapolis hospital.

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