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Published February 14, 2012, 10:26 PM

Quick thinking saves Fargo man who set himself on fire

Hillsboro, ND (WDAY TV) - A 34 year-old Fargo man remains hospitalized tonight after an apparent suicide attempt left him with burns on nearly half of his body. It could have been much worse if not for the brave efforts of a few law enforcement officials.

A 34 year-old Fargo man remains hospitalized tonight after an apparent suicide attempt left him with burns on nearly half of his body. It could have been much worse if not for the brave efforts of a few law enforcement officials.

Traill County Dispatch contacted the department shortly before 2:30 the morning of February 5th, warning of a possible suicidal male in a Chevy Blazer. What happened over the next several minutes is a story of sadness, tragedy, and heroism.

Ray Weber – Hillsboro Police Chief: “He pulled up and just a matter of seconds, we seen a lighter and all of a sudden the whole thing just exploded.”

Ryan Harstad is believed to have doused himself and his car in gasoline at a Fargo store before driving to Hillsboro. He stopped at the Stop-N-Go convenience store and spoke with a clerk. The clerk notified police, worried he would harm himself, but then he took off, driving four blocks before parking in front of the trail county courthouse.

Ray Weber: “The whole inside just ignited at one time, the windows blew out and the vehicle ignited all at once.”

That's when the 30 year police veteran and Hillsboro Chief Ray Weber snapped into action

Ray Weber: “The driver came out of the driver’s window himself. I went over there and took my jacket off and smothered out the fire and got him away from the vehicle.”

Harstad and a Traill County Deputy put the fire out in a matter of seconds, but not before 40% of Harstad's body sustained significant burns.

The 34 year-old Fargo native was taken to a Fargo hospital then to a burn unit at Regions Hospital in St. Paul.

Ray Weber: “I've never seen anything in the years that I've been around, not that you want to either. And our main concern is for the safety of the individual, get the fire out and get him medical attention.”

According to Harstad's Caring Bridge page he had surgery this morning to remove the last of his damaged tissue. His family expects doctors to slowly wean him off the ventilator starting Friday. He will need several more skin grafting surgeries over the new few weeks.

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