Jim Erb's house burns hours after losing county auditor election

Jim Erb, a candidate for Elkhart County auditor, said he believes the fire is suspicious.

Posted on May 7, 2014 at 12:06 p.m.

NEW PARIS — Hours after losing Tuesday's primary race for Elkhart County auditor, Jim Erb lost his home to a fire.

New Paris and Benton Township firefighters were called to Erb's home at 18981 First St. at 2:40 a.m. Wednesday, May 7.

Crews had the fire under control by 4 a.m. No injuries were reported. 

Erb said he, his wife Cheryl and his stepson, Derek, were sleeping when the fire detectors went off. Derek told Erb he ran downstairs from his room when he heard the detectors going off and saw flames out on the deck through the patio door. 

Erb said he believes the fire was intentionally set.

He said there was no real fire damage inside the house. But there was water and smoke damage. The fire also crept up to the attic, causing parts of the roof to fall into the house. 

Erb said the house is uninhabitable for now, so they will be staying with family.

The fire started out on the back side of the house, according to New Paris Fire Chief Joe Warstler. 

Mike Vogely, an investigator from the Indiana State Fire Marshal's office, said he has not determined the cause and the fire is still under investigation.

Capt. Jim Bradberry, a public information officer from the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department, confirmed the fire marshal's office had been in contact with the sheriff's department.

Erb said he didn't know why someone would try to burn his house down. He said he thought the fire was started by lighting one of the wooden flower boxes along the back of the house on fire.

Erb said another possibility is that faulty wiring caused the blaze, but added that that explanation didn't make sense to him.

Reporter Sharon Hernandez contributed to this report.

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