Gas Explosion Kills 1 Firefighter, Injures 7 In Farmington Maine

by America's Keepers on September 17, 2019
FARMINGTON, Maine - Firefighters were called to the Farmington Falls Road building at about 8:07 a.m. for a smell of propane. The explosion occurred minutes later.

Authorities said the explosion, which happened around 8 a.m., was caused by a propane leak.

First responders were called to the scene when employees smelled gas. The building—which was the center office for LEAP, a non-profit that serves adults with disabilities—was then evacuated.

The deceased was identified as Fire Captain Michael Bell, 68, a 30-year veteran of the department.

He is the brother of Fire Chief Terry Bell, 62, who was also injured during the incident.

Also injured were Captain Timothy Hardy, 40; Captain Scott Baxter, 37, and his father, Firefighter Theodore Baxter, 64; Firefighter Joseph Hastings, 24; and Deputy Fire Chief Clyde Ross, who was treated and released.

U.S. and state flags were lowered to half-mast across the state in honor of Bell.

A procession of firetrucks Monday afternoon took Bell’s body to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Augusta. A procession returning his body was planned for Tuesday morning, although details were not available Monday night.

The Bells are part of a firefighting family that included their father, the late Jack Bell, who spent nearly 50 years on the department before he died at 80 in 2009.

Most of the LEAP staff had exited the building by the time it exploded, according to Amanda Simoneau, director of Franklin County Emergency Management Agency. “We have one person burned with a leg injury who was LifeFlighted to Mass. General,” said Darryl Wood, executive director of LEAP.

"Farmington is a strong, close-knit and resilient community, of which I am proud to be a part. This loss is devastating and felt by all of Maine," Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement.

"My heart goes out to the loved ones of the firefighter lost and those injured. On this tragic day, I ask the people of Maine to join with me in offering our thoughts and prayers to the people of Franklin County and our deepest gratitude to our first responders."