Firefighters from Harrington, Addison and Cherryfield were among those who helped douse a fire in Harrington Sunday. A dog helped rouse the home's residents. As the fire spread to a nearby barn, 113 fowl were killed. Credit: Courtesy Rick Lindquist

The barking of a pit bull named Angel saved the lives of four people who escaped a burning farmhouse on Sunday, but not the 113 birds who perished in the blaze.

The ducks, ducklings, chickens, chicks, geese, turkeys and quail were killed in a barn fire that spread to a connected farmhouse in the Washington County town of Harrington. The structures were destroyed.

According to owner Karen Bettencourt, her animals were purebred and included several exotic species worth thousands of dollars. She, her partner John Jalbert, and two others escaped the fire when Angel’s barking awoke her.

Without Angel’s alertness, “we would have been all dead,” Bettencourt said Monday.

“You know what, though? Before the fire, she was growling,” Bettencourt added. “Then, a half an hour later, she went into a full-fledged bark.”

Harrington Fire Chief Chip Williams and investigators from the state fire marshal’s office were on-scene Monday. They did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Once Angel awoke her, Bettencourt awoke Jalbert. They also heard several neighbors banging on the side of the house in an effort to alert them. One of the tenants had to be helped out of the fire from the upper part of the 1½-story house, Jalbert said.

When Bettencourt emerged, the fire had already consumed the back half of the barn and was spreading fast. She said firefighters’ efforts to stop the fire were hampered by a live electrical wire that needed to be shut off before they could attack the flames.

They waited 45 minutes before a utility crew arrived, she said.

The fire was reported at 1:23 a.m., according to a dispatcher at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

Built in 1861, the Civil War-era farmhouse had been where Bettencourt ran her poultry farm for about two years. She and Jalbert had recently installed several cages in the barn. The animals occasionally roamed free, said neighbor Rick Lindquist.

“The turkeys would come up on my deck and sort of stand there and stare at me like vultures. I didn’t mind,” Lindquist said.

Jalbert and Bettencourt were hoping to advertise the animals as free-range raised, Jalbert said.

A disabled survivor of cancers to the uterus, breast, arm and upper GI, Bettencourt had only borrowed clothes to wear on Monday. A nurse at Down East Community Hospital of Machias was so moved by Bettencourt’s disaster that he gave her $100, she said.

“I put my life into this house,” Bettencourt said. “Now I have nothing.”

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