BANGOR — When the smoke alarms went off in Natachia Barlow’s rental home on Dillingham Street Friday afternoon, she thought someone had burned toast.

“It’s always toast. It’s never a real fire,” she said Monday, standing outside the damaged two-story yellow house that is now condemned because of fire and water damage.

Barlow, 39, arrived at the boarded up house just after noon and was able to find a charred doggie jacket on the back porch that was once worn by Rollie, a chihuahua, who perished in the fire along with Lucy, a medium-sized mixed breed.

Barlow said she was in her upstairs bedroom when the alarms sounded. She could smell smoke, so she went down to the kitchen, but found no fire, so she ran back upstairs.

She opened the door to the room where her dogs slept and found a small fire in a bag of yarn that she was able to extinguish. Barlow said she then looked in the adjacent room.

“I opened up my daughter’s room and the whole room was on fire,” Barlow said. “I thought, ‘I can’t contain that.’ I grabbed my cellphone and yelled to my daughter [who was downstairs], ‘It’s a real fire. I’m calling 911.’ I grabbed this jacket.”

The fire at 40 Dillingham Street was reported at 12:54 p.m Friday, and Bangor fire crews were at the scene five minutes later.

Barlow ran downstairs and out the front door to safety, but then remembered her dogs. She tried to go back up the stairs, but thick, black smoke stopped her at the top.

“I left the door to the bedroom open and it was just black. I tried to get to their room but it was just so black,” Barlow said. “It was just billowing and dark.

“I’m trying to call to them,” she said. “I’m on the stairs and I’m saying, ‘Lucy, Rollie — come on, come on.’ I could hear them whining and I just panicked. I thought, ‘Why aren’t they coming? I know I left their door open.’”

Barlow said she felt like she was moving in slow motion as she decided to run back outside and around the back of the building to try and access the dogs’ room from a window that she was able to break.

“I thought maybe we can get to them through the window,” she said of her pets, her tears beginning to flow.

While she was trying to gain access to her burning rental, “some man came and dragged me away,” Barlow said.

She was taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center for smoke inhalation wearing only a housedress, snow boots and her jacket. Bangor Assistant Fire Chief Rick Cheverie chastised Barlow for going back inside.

“That’s a bad plan,” he said of attempting to rescue the animals. “When you get out and you have a fire in your building, please stay out.”

Assistant Chief Darrell Cyr said Monday that the fire is being investigated by the state fire marshal’s office.

Barlow said she has no clue how the fire started. Barlow, her pregnant daughter, Cynshey Ramsey, and 21-month-old granddaughter were living in the house along with a houseguest. The Pine Tree Chapter of the American Red Cross put up the family at the Ramada Inn until Tuesday and also gave them $240 to purchase clothes and toiletries.

“We lost all of our belongings and have no place to go,” Ramsey said in an email. “We had no insurance.”

Robyn Crossman of Milo, Barlow’s sister, set up an online fire relief fund to raise money. Barlow will need to put down a deposit and first month’s rent for a new apartment and to replace some of the items lost in the fire.

Barlow, whose hands turned black from grasping the charred doggie jacket, said Monday she did not realize how quickly fire can burn through a home.

“I keep thinking I should not have grabbed my jacket,” Barlow said. “I should have gotten [the dogs] first.”


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