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, a chicken and a cat all lost their lives in the blaze, which 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.”
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, ‘What are the dogs barking at?’ because it wasn’t a normal bark, it was a warning. We looked outside 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.
Bragdon tried to get the animals out of the barn, but flames already had consumed the 30-by-60-foot structure.
Fire investigators said the home and barn were destroyed. Ribeiro said she was insured.
More than a dozen firearms – including a .22-caliber 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. 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 the State Fire Marshal inspected the scene, but said there was too much damage to determine a cause.
Ribeiro said there was electrical power to the barn, but there were no space heaters or electrical appliances in use.
Ribeiro, who owns Bargain Hunter, a retail clothing and hunting equipment store at Skowhegan Plaza, said the house 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 until about four years ago.
What was left of the barn beams, roof and floorboards lay flat and charred Friday morning. The frame was all that was left of Bragdon’s all-terrain vehicle.
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 knickknacks 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 not shot 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 she isn’t sure if she will rebuild. Her parents own a house in Bingham and she and Bragdon can go there until they figure out what to do next, she said.
Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at: