BINGHAM — Jim Bryant and his family came to Maine just a few months ago looking to start new lives. Their hopes were dashed Sunday afternoon when a fire heavily damaged their home on Meadow Street.

Bryant and his son Robert had just recently driven from California, where the family had moved from in July, and Sunday afternoon was one of the family’s first times they were all together in their new home.

They were out taking family pictures at the public boat landing in town when the fire broke out in the barn attached to the house, Jim Bryant said on Monday.

“I could see the smoke as we were driving back,” Bryant said. “Sure enough, when we pulled around the corner it was our house.”

In addition to almost all of their belongings, the family lost their two dogs, Muffin and Posie, in the fire.

The Bingham Congregational Church next door to the house was damaged, but firefighters were able to save the building.

“The flames were flying all over the place,” said Blynn Currier, who lives across the street from the Bryants. Currier and his wife, Lucille Currier, said they heard a report of the fire on a police scanner they have in their home.

Lucille Currier went across the street and tried to help firefighters save the two dogs, but she said there was too much smoke in the house.

“He just said there’s no way we could have gone in,” she said. “He said, ‘You’d take three breaths and you’d be gone.'”

“I feel so bad for them,” she said. “They have nothing. They just bought all new furniture. They have nothing except the clothes on their backs.”

The fire originated in a barn attached to the house, according to Bingham Fire Chief Scott Lawyerson, but the cause was unclear Monday. The Office of the Maine State Fire Marshal was at the scene investigating and said last night it is too soon to determine a cause, and they can’t get into the barn because it’s not safe yet, and heavy equipment will be needed to move debris.

Lawyerson said the cause is not considered suspicious.

Jim Bryant said they walked through the barn when they left Sunday, and he didn’t see anything amiss.

He and his wife, Patricia, moved to Bingham after he retired from the California Department of Forestry. He said Patricia really wanted to move to New England.

They also have two grown children, Jessica and Robert, who moved with them and lived at the Meadow Street house.

Jim Bryant said Monday that they had been looking at houses in the Solon area when his daughter heard about the Meadow Street house in Bingham — a big cream-colored in-town farmhouse with red trim.

“She said, ‘Why don’t we go look at it? It’s only seven miles away,” Bryant said. “We just drove by and she fell in love with it.”

The house is a landmark in town, according to Lucille Currier, and has been remodeled several times.

“They were devastated,” she said. “They were pacing. That’s all they could do. I know the daughter was really worried about the dogs.”

The house was still standing on Monday, but Lawyerson said it sustained heavy smoke, water and fire damage. Despite the loss, he said fire crews did a good job preventing the fire from also destroying the church, where melted siding Monday showed how close the flames came.

“They did an unbelievable job making sure it didn’t jump to the church,” he said.

The Bingham Fire Department was assisted by the Solon Fire Department and Upper Kennebec Valley Ambulance Service.

The Bryants have insurance and are being assisted by the American Red Cross. Jim Bryant said Monday that they are staying at a motel in Skowhegan while they figure out whether they can rebuild or salvage any part of the house.

The fire also destroyed a car that was in the barn and damaged a truck that Monday morning was parked outside the house.

“With winter coming, who knows how long it could take (to rebuild)?” he said. “It’s hard to come back here.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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