EAST MADISON — A farm owner lost her home, barn and all of her farm animals in a fire Thursday night, but her dogs likely saved her life.
Aimey Ribeiro of Tupper Road said two cows, three pigs — two of which were to give birth this spring — a chicken and a cat named Louie all lost their lives in the blaze that tore through the barn and into the house about 9:30 p.m.
“My cows, they suffered,” she said. “My pigs suffered. I’m just sad that my animals suffered. They all had names — the cows were Reggie and DJ and the pigs were Lila, Ginger and The Boar.”
Ribeiro, 41, said her three dogs made it out alive and may have saved her and her boyfriend, Josh Bragdon, 29, from the fire.
“The dogs sounded the alarm,” Ribeiro said. “At first it was, â€˜What are the dogs barking at?’ because it wasn’t a normal bark, it was a warning. We looked out side and everything was red.”
She said her border collie, Cowboy, and black Lab, Governor, were “the ones that freaked out” when the fire started and warned them as they were watching TV. Another dog, Wolfie, a Malamute, was upstairs and Bragdon had to carry it downstairs after it apparently inhaled smoke.
Bragdon tried to get the animals out of the barn, but flames already had consumed the 30-by-60-foot structure. A second chicken and another cat and possibly a rabbit survived.
Fire investigators said the home and barn were destroyed, and the damage was so extensive that the cause of the blaze could not be determined. Ribeiro said she was insured.
More than a dozen firearms — including a .22 Magnum handgun, a Derringer, a .45-70 Alaskan bear rifle and other long rifles and shotguns — were covered in soot, but are salvageable, she said.
Madison Deputy Fire Chief Danny Bosworth said crews from Skowhegan, Anson, Athens, Solon and Cornville responded to the scene. Firefighters were on the scene for four hours, he said.
“We were told that the barn was on fire, heading toward the house — it was fully involved when we got here,” Bosworth said. “We put up a stop right between the house and the barn — the fire did get inside the dwelling; heat and smoke throughout. It’s a total loss.”
Investigators from the Office of State Fire Marshal inspected the scene, but said there was too much damage to determine a cause.
Ribeiro, who owns Bargain Hunter, a retail clothing and hunting equipment store on Skowhegan Plaza, said the house, which is on four acres, is more than 200 years old. She said she moved there 15 years ago to take up what she calls hobby farming — beef, pork, turkey and chicken for her freezer and livestock to sell. She raised horses up until about four years ago.
Tupper Road is off Bagley Road and state Route 43.
What was left of the barn beams, roof and floor boards lay flat and charred Friday morning. The frame was all that was left of Bragdon’s all-terrain vehicle with tire chains and a plow on the front. Bragdon said he also lost welding equipment, six or seven chain saws and other tools that were in the barn.
Inside the house, family heirloom dishes and nicknacks sat blackened on a rack where Ribeiro had left them for display — everything on both floors of the house was charred black from smoke and soot.
At one point, rounds of ammunition began shooting off from the heat of the fire.
“We were watching the fire and I saw streaks going across the sky — I couldn’t figure it out,” Bragdon said. “Then we remembered there were old bullets out here and they were firing off.”
Bosworth, the deputy fire chief, said bullets firing off in such a way are not that dangerous, because they’re notshot through the rifled barrel of a gun.
“You can get hit, but they won’t penetrate, they’re not a projectile,” Bosworth said. “We had them bounce off our gear before.”
Ribeiro said there was electrical power to the barn, but there were no space heaters or electrical appliances in use.
Ribeiro said she isn’t sure if she will rebuild a home there. She said the insurance adjusters had not arrived by noon Friday. Her manager at Bargain Hunter is running the store in the meantime.
Her parents own a house in Bingham that is vacant and she and Bragdon can go there until they know what to do next, she said.