Indiana Fire Kills Nearly 2,000 Racing Pigeons One Day Before Worldwide Competition

Almost 2,000 racing pigeons have been killed in a fire just one day before a worldwide competition was due to be held.

The Hoosier Loft in Wanatah, Indiana, was housing pigeons from across the globe when it burned down either late on Saturday night or early Sunday morning, according to The Times of Northwest Indiana.

The loft was holding all the pigeons set to compete in the 2019 Hoosier Classic Million Dollar One Loft Race, one of the most important events in the world of competitive pigeon racing, on Monday.

This year's race would have seen the pigeons flying from Matthews, Missouri, to Wanatah for cash prizes of to $500,000, according to the race's website.

Race organizers Jim and Kelly Ward, who own the Hoosier Loft, said they were "completely devastated" by the fire. Four of their dogs also died in the fire, friends of the Wards told The Times of Northwest Indiana.

In a post shared on the race's website and Facebook page, the Wards asked for patience from the pigeon racing community as they deal with authorities. They did not reveal what caused the fire.

The Wards said they had asked another couple, Mike and Debbie Ganus, to host the auction and banquet associated with the race in their place.

"Many have read on Facebook and an email from iPigeon that the Hoosier Loft has burned down overnight," the Wards said in a statement.

"It is in fact true and we as a family are completely devastated. We are heartbroken at this time and are trying to process the events from overnight.

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

They added: "We know that everyone participating is at as much of a loss as we are and we would like for everyone that is in town to please attend the banquet, enjoy your evening and the company of others that love this sport as much as we do. We are resilient, we are workers, we love this sport and we love what we do."

According to The Times of Northwest Indiana, the Hoosier Loft was 280 feet long and 16 feet wide. It was able to hold up to 7.500 birds.

Newsweek has contacted the LaPorte County Sheriff's Office and the Wanatah Fire Department for comment.

racing pigeon
Stock photo: Racing pigeons. Nearly 2,000 pigeons were killed in a fire in Wanatah, Indiana, a day before a worldwide competition was due to be held. Getty