NEW PALESTINE — With gentle hands and surprise in her eyes, Diane Shinkle brushed soot off her daughter’s Bible. She thumbed through its charred and blackened pages, pausing every so often when she noticed an underlined passage or phrase.
Everything else was lost, Shinkle said of daughter’s belongs, which were being kept in a barn located in the 5500 block of County Road 600W in New Palestine that was destroyed by fire early Monday morning.
Shinkle’s daughter was renting a home on the property owned by William Ostermyer and stored some of her things in the barn.
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The Bible managed to make it through the blaze, the words etched upon its pages still clear enough to read. That brought Shinkle some comfort Monday morning, she said, clutching the book carefully in her glove-covered hands and watching as friends shuffle through other blackened mementos.
The historic barn — which has belonged to the family for at least 100 years, Ostermyer estimated — caught fire early Monday morning. Crews from seven local fire departments spent more than nearly five hours fighting the blaze, 911 dispatch records show.
Fire officials say the cause of the fire is still under investigation, but family members believe a heater, which was set up to warm a few newborn chicks, might have tipped over. The baby chickens were lost in the fire, and most of the barn was a total loss.
Rescue crew were called just after midnight, and the barn was fully engulfed in flames when they arrived.
The fire appeared to start in the north side of the structure, but high winds caused the flames to spread quickly through the remainder of the building, said Randy Brandlein, a division chief for the Sugar Creek Township Fire Department.
The property was located near the Hancock-Shelby county line with no fire hydrants nearby, meaning crews had to fill their fire engines with water and drive it nearly two miles back to the burning structure several times, Brandlein said.
“Our guys did their best with what they had to work with,” he said.
Crews had the fire put out by 4:45 a.m., dispatch records show.
Monday morning, family members and friends came to property to help sort through what little was left.
The barn was used primarily for storage, Ostermyer said. A car, a few lawn mowers and tractors were parked inside, and the barn also stowed many family members’ belongings and a few antiques, he said.
He inherited the property on which it sits from his father, and he had planned to pass it on to his son.