Veteran Firefighter Captain Dead, 6 People Injured as Massive Explosion Levels Multiple Buildings
A 30-year veteran captain of a Maine fire department lost his life Monday morning following a powerful explosion, which left the building he was inspecting for a gas leak flattened.
Six others, five of whom are firefighters, were also injured in the blast.
The incident took place in Farmington, which is about 35 miles northwest of the state capital of Augusta.
Farmington Fire Capt. Michael Bell, 68, died while responding to a propane smell in the central office for LEAP, a program that supports homes for developmentally disabled people, ABC News reported.
Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols, who was one of the first responders on scene, said it reminded him of a war zone.
“I spent a year in Iraq, it’s about the closest I can explain it. Total devastation,” Nichols said. “I’ve never seen destruction like that in my career … It was horrible.”
DEVELOPING: New video and aftermath photos show a deadly building explosion in Farmington, Maine, with one firefighter killed and six people injured; the building, home to a program for disabled adults, had been evacuated after an employee smelled propane. https://t.co/okF5Tg9Pm0 pic.twitter.com/jM5rww5xMb
Nichols said the blast — believed to have been caused by a propane or natural gas leak — was so powerful, it was felt in a neighboring town.
Deputy Fire Chief Clyde Ross was treated and released, while the other firefighters are being treated at Maine Medical Center in Portland.
The sixth person injured was a maintenance worker at the facility, Larry Lord, 60.
“There were many heroes whose actions today saved additional lives,” LEAP said in a statement on Facebook. “Those heroes included first responders and LEAP staff and neighbors.”
Maine Gov. Janet Mills, who is from Farmington, ordered flags in her state to be flown at half-staff.
“Our hearts go out to all those impacted by this tragedy, especially to the loved ones of the firefighter lost and others injured,” Mills tweeted. “I am grateful for the work of first responders who are at the scene and urge Maine people to avoid the area.”
Our hearts go out to all those impacted by this tragedy, especially to the loved ones of the firefighter lost and others injured. I am grateful for the work of first responders who are at the scene and urge Maine people to avoid the area. (2/2)
— Governor Janet Mills (@GovJanetMills) September 16, 2019
Tonight, we’re learning Fire Captain Michael Bell, 68, was killed in the Farmington blast. He was a 30 year member of the fire department. pic.twitter.com/oV4wsg64eu
— Marissa Bodnar (@MarissaWGME) September 16, 2019
A statement released by the governor’s office indicated she had gone to the blast site and the Farmington Fire Department to thank them for their service.
“Farmington is a strong, close-knit and resilient community, of which I am proud to be part of,” Mills said. “The loss is devastating and felt by all Maine.”
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