LaPorte County fire incinerates nearly 2,000 competitive racing pigeons

Nearly 2,000 competitive racing pigeons from around the world were incinerated Saturday when the Hoosier Loft in Wanatah, Indiana, burned to the ground.

LAPORTE — There is no indication that criminal activity played a role in a structure fire last weekend that resulted in the death of nearly 2,000 racing pigeons from around the world, according to LaPorte County Sheriff John Boyd.

The investigation into the cause and origin of the blaze is ongoing, he said, and an electrical problem cannot be ruled out. 

Jim Ward, co-owner of the Hoosier Loft in Wanatah where there fire took place, posted an update on his website challenging accusations that the fire was intentionally set.

"SHAME ON BOTH OF YOU! What do we gain by this?" he wrote. "Why would I let my family go through this? Get Your Facts Straight!"

Owners Jim and Kelly Ward were not available Thursday for comment when contacted by The Times.

Records show the destroyed loft, which was housing all the pigeons for what was suppose to be Monday's 2019 Hoosier Classic Million Dollar One Loft Race from Matthews, Missouri, back to Wanatah was 280 feet long, 16 feet wide and capable of accommodating up to 7,500 birds. The race is one of the premier events in competitive pigeon racing worldwide.

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The Wards have said their family is "completely devastated" by the fire that also killed four of their dogs, according to friends of the family.

"Our family has spent hundreds of hours working in this loft and it has become our life," the Wards said on the race website. "We are thankful that our children are safe, but we are devastated at the loss of something that we lived to do on a daily basis."

The fire is being investigated by officials with the state fire marshal's office and county sheriff's department, Boyd said.

The Wards are not letting the fire completely destroy their efforts.

"We will host a race in 2020," Jim said Tuesday on the race website. "We will rebuild the million dollar loft and race ... We want to believe we are resilient, but it is difficult to be when you are made to feel that you are involved in wrong doing."

Come back to nwi.com for more details as they become available.

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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.