FARMINGTON — A fire destroyed a home and belongings of several family members late Wednesday afternoon and claimed the life of three cats and a dog at 120 Vacation Estates Lane.

Firefighters got the call at 5:23 p.m. No one was home when the fire started. 

The house is owned by Bernard “Bubba” Bates.

Sixty firefighters from seven Franklin County departments responded to fight the blaze off Holley Road.

Fire could be seen coming from the rear of the building when firefighters arrived, Farmington fire rescue Chief Terry Bell said. Water was hauled from a fire hydrant on Holley Road.

The cause most likely will remain undetermined because of the scope of the destruction, he said.

“It looks like it started in the basement in the back of the building,” he said. “Half of the building floor is in the basement.”

State fire investigators will do follow-up interviews with the family.

“It does not look suspicious at all,” Bell said.

Bernard’s sister, Diane Bates, who also lives at the ranch-style house, said she was on her way home on Wednesday afternoon and could see black smoke.

“I kept saying, ‘Oh no, not the house, oh no, not the house,’ and it was the house,” she said. “I was going to open the door to see if I could get the animals out, but a guy said, ‘Don’t open the door,’” she said.

Several animals perished in the blaze — Bates’ dog, Baretta; cat, Barkley; and the kittens belonging to her niece, Rebecca “Becca” Couture, Juice and Little Kitty.

Bernard Bates, Becca’s father, was on his way home from Connecticut on Thursday morning.

“Brandon and I made it out with just the clothes on our backs,” Diane Bates said.

Brandon Mayo is Couture’s boyfriend, who was with Couture at Maine Medical Center in Portland while she awaits the birth of her child. Couture’s daughter, Alyssa, 8, was with her father.

This house was the family’s home, Couture said. 

“My grandmother used to live here and we had many gatherings while she was alive,” she said. “We have many memories of family get-togethers. I have lived there off and on for years.”

Losing the animals was hardest.

“My cats were my babies and I talked of them daily,” Couture said. “Right now, we are still in shock as I am due in just a short time and having no place to live makes that hard. Brandon and I have had issues in the past with losing babies. We lost the ashes of our daughter, who we lost two years ago in October, as well as the ashes of my mother.”

She is thankful for having a large family and a huge support system, she said.

“I feel so horrible for my father, as the house was his and now there is nothing,” Couture said. “In time, we will heal — but right now, the loss has just devastated us. I am so thankful, though, that Brandon was still here when I got the call, as I don’t know what I would have done without him. We are just hoping things come together before the new one comes — which happens to be a little girl.”

The house was insured, Bell said, and the American Red Cross was called to help the family.

Diane Bates stayed with her brother, Brian Bates, of Farmington, Wednesday night.

Fundraising pages have been set up for Couture and Mayo at Another one was set up for the Bates family at

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