Joplin, MO –

John Hacker, Globe Staff Writer

Fire chief: Goat apparently to blame for natural-gas leak.

A rural Lawrence County woman was burned Wednesday in what a sheriff’s deputy said was a natural-gas explosion in a barn.

A goat was blamed for the blast.

Fanny Yoder, 57, 4142 Lawrence County Farm Road 2090, was taken by medical helicopter to St. John’s Regional Health Center in Springfield after the accident, which was called in to authorities at 2:11 p.m.

Avilla fire Chief Tim Gunter said Yoder suffered serious burns over much of her body and may have inhaled some of the flames and hot air, which can cause burns to the delicate tissue in the lungs and windpipe.

Lawrence County sheriff’s Detective Mike Madewell said the explosion happened when natural gas, coming from a valve in a gas line in the barn, reached a propane water heater and was ignited by the pilot light.

“It was letting enough gas out that it filled the barn and exploded when it reached the water heater,” Gunter said. “When we got there, the fire was out, and there was nothing to do but treat Mrs. Yoder and take care of her.”

In a written statement, Madewell said Yoder had gone to the barn to check on livestock.

“Mrs. Yoder smelled gas when she entered the barn, and the barn exploded when she attempted to shut off the gas,” Madewell wrote.

“It appeared the gas had been accidentally turned on by the livestock, and when the door was opened, the gas reached a hot water heater which ignited the gas.”

Gunter said damage to the barn was minor. The three goats in the pen were killed in the explosion.