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Shirleen Shaw had been planting cucumbers in the garden when she looked up to see flames near a recreational vehicle parked on her Azalia property. She said her fingers trembled as she called 911 on her cellphone.
Shaw and her husband Herschel later expressed thanks that their Azalia home was saved. Flames, however, claimed their barn, the RV and a 1957 Chevrolet.
More than 40 firefighters from six departments responded starting at 6:18 p.m. Wednesday.
“They were able to push a tractor out of the way, and it’s OK,” the 70-year-old woman said from her country home on East Road 750S, less than half-mile off U.S. 31 in southern Bartholomew County.
No one was injured fighting the fire, and Shirleen Shaw felt grateful for that.
She drives a school bus for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. Her 73-year-old husband, who is retired, was not home when the fire broke out.
But the Shaws are trying to understand what happened to cause the blaze that also destroyed many tools, another older vehicle, assorted lawnmowers, tires and items they stored in the barn and around the yard.
The RV was not insured, but they had not been using it, and the old Chevy was not fully restored, she said.
“We have five acres here, and I used to grow lots of mums and daylilies here,” Shirleen Shaw said, pointing to an area next to charred remains from the fire.
Mike Barnes, a captain with the Elizabethtown Volunteer Fire Department, said emergency personnel were on the scene until about 11 p.m.
When the firefighters first arrived, Barnes said they saw flames coming from the RV.
With the proximity to the house, barn, vehicles and other items, the firefighters called for backup.
Barnes said they knew they would need fresh manpower to rotate duties as they sorted through a large amount of debris.
“As cool as it seems out here, once you start fighting a fire, it gets hot fast,” Barnes said of the need to give firefighters frequent breaks.
Barnes said the fire quickly spread to the barn, and firefighters began hearing small explosions, likely from aerosol cans, said Rodney Ferrenburg, Columbus Township Fire Department chief.
Barnes said a cause had not been determined as of Thursday morning, but he did not suspect the fire to be suspicious.
He could not provide an immediate damage estimate because he was unsure of all the items that were in the barn or their value.
Also responding were Clay Township, Southwest, Reddington and Jonesville volunteer fire departments, Columbus Regional Health ambulance, Indiana State Police and Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department.
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