The man's wife and his adult son survived the fire and were taken to a local hospital, Slocum said. The relationship between the two families wasn't immediately clear, he said. Neighbors reported the fire about 2 a.m. Wednesday at the rural home about 70 miles (115 kilometers) north of Indianapolis. Two Cass County sheriff's deputies arrived there minutes later and attempted to enter the home but were turned away by flames and heat, Sheriff Randy Pryor said.
Pryor said the two survivors have spoken to investigators. The house was largely engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived, preventing any rescue attempts, New Waverly Fire Department Lt. Steve Crispen said.
The building's roof collapsed after fire gutted most of the interior of the two-story, wood-frame house, Crispen said. Firefighting efforts were hindered by a lack of fire hydrants near the house. Fire crews ran out of water and had to wait for about five minutes for more tankers to arrive, Crispen said.
"It's pretty numbing when the initial dispatch is telling us people are entrapped in the structure and they're saying multiple people," Crispen said. "It's one of the toughest days I've probably had in my life."
Three state fire investigators were at the scene to determine the cause of the blaze, State Fire Marshal James Greeson said, adding that the task ahead would not be easy. "We have an excavation unit in there that is going to systematically pull this apart, so we can get in and actually do our investigation," Greeson said.
Slocum said he didn't want to speculate about the cause of the fire. "We're going to consider it a criminal investigation until we find out otherwise — it is all encompassing," Slocum said.
This story has been corrected to attribute information about the police investigation to State police Sgt. Tony Slocum, not the state fire marshal.