MILTON TOWNSHIP — Lloyd and Sue Billings woke up to their dogs making quite a ruckus around 4 a.m. July 26, just before Sue heard what sounded like a light bulb blowing.
“If it weren’t for our dogs, I really don’t think we would have made it out,” she said.
The family farm that was built in the early 1800s and was home and business to the Billings and their 14-year-old daughter, Emily, went up in flames due to an electrical issue.
“It’s crazy what goes through your mind,” Sue Billings said. "I ran to my daughter’s room, the wall was blazing orange, and she wasn’t there. I had forgotten that she was at a friend’s house. Thank God she wasn’t home. Her room was the first to go.”
They made their way to the attached barn to save their livestock, which included pigs, two steers, sheep, chickens, rabbits, two horses and Emily’s 4-H goats. They pushed the animals toward the doors as fast as they could, hoping they would get outside.
“It went up in a flash,” Sue Billings said. “It felt like an eternity before the Fire Department got here. I think it was about 10 or 15 minutes and it was gone.”
Not knowing where their animals were or how many actually made it out, the Billingses could only stand back and watch the area fire departments extinguish the flames consuming their house, barn and a small building across the road.
When there was nothing left but ashes, the couple began to take stock of what they had left. They realized then that they had lost the two show goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, a steer and rabbits.
One steer was in the woods, but was so scared it wouldn’t come close. A pig found its way near a fence on the property and bedded down. A chicken was running around, and their two horses and trusty terriers were with neighbors.
It wasn’t until later that Sue realized she had burned the bottoms of her feet trying to free the animals. “I didn’t have time to get shoes. I didn’t even know they were burnt until a guy from the fire department brought me ice packs and told me to put them on my feet,” she said.
“We’re so grateful to have friends and family around. My sister-in-law brought clothes over," Sue Billings said. "We’ve been given dog food and grain. We’ll stay in our fair camper tonight.”
The family has to wait for hot spots to die down before they can begin to clean up. In the meantime, they are gathering estimates from contractors, and accepting any donations of animal feed, shelter and clothing they can get.
The home was fully-insured and they do plan to rebuild.
“My husband and daughter already have it all worked out,” said a sleepy Billings the next morning. “But, this time, we won’t have the barn attached to the house and it will have a wider entryway. I can’t tell you what I had to jump over in that nightmare of trying to get the animals out.”
Now, the Billingses have to go through the tedious work of putting a value on all they lost, from beds, sinks and stoves, down to their silverware, plates and pictures.
“What price do you put on memories and keepsakes,” Billings asked. She lost her father’s urn in the fire.
Anyone with items to donate to the Billings family may drop them by their farmstand on Route 2 across from Maine Made Furniture, or call Sue Billings at 357-3833.