Maine firefighters lay brother to rest

Posted Nov. 22, 2008, at 5:41 p.m.

HARTLAND — Hundreds of firefighters from Maine, Canada and New Hampshire said goodbye to one of their own Saturday in a moving funeral for a Hartland firefighter.

Goodbye Michael Snowman. Goodbye Mr. Frosty. Goodbye Hartland 407.

Snowman was the 105th firefighter to die this year in the United States, and the fourth in Maine since 2000.

After a private funeral at First Baptist Church in Hartland on Saturday afternoon, Snowman’s casket was brought back to the Hartland Fire Department one last time.

In bitter cold temperatures and biting winds, firefighters — women and men much more comfortable in turnout gear and boots — were decked out in their finest suits and dress blue uniforms. They lined both sides of Route 23, standing at attention with their hands at salute, as Snowman’s casket passed by on top of a Hartland firetruck.

Riding on the back of the firetruck were his brother, Thomas Snowman of the Newport Fire Department, and his son, Benjamin Snowman of the Canaan Fire Department. Many firefighters were bare-headed and coatless in the 24-degree afternoon.

Overhead, LifeFlight Air Ambulance flew over the procession, paying respects to Snowman, a 25-year veteran of the Hartland Fire Department.

On the apron in front of the station, Skowhegan 11 and Dexter 475 ladder trucks formed an arch where an American flag snapped and rippled in the wind.

Three honor guards stood sentinel as the Last Call for Snowman was announced over fire department radios by the Somerset County Communications Center.

A brass bell was struck repeatedly, signifying that Snowman was now “returned home” to the station.

Bagpipes played “Amazing Grace,” and a low moaning wail was heard from the town’s siren system.

Snowman, 49, died last Monday of an apparent heart attack while assisting Detroit Fire Department at a house fire. He was stricken midmorning as he hooked hoses to a pumper truck on Route 69.

Snowman was airlifted to Eastern Maine Medical Center, but died just before noon.

A state team of firefighters has been working with Hartland and area firefighters all week, conducting debriefing sessions and helping them to plan the funeral.

A Line of Duty Death team from New Hampshire also arrived Friday to provide assistance.

After the ceremony at the Hartland Fire Station, cars full of mourners followed a parade of silent firetrucks that led the way to the Detroit Village Cemetery with lights flashing.

Firefighters from many departments gathered after the private cemetery ceremony at the Detroit Fire Station, celebrating the brotherhood of firefighters.

Family members and firefighters mingled, told stories about past fires and incidents, shared the stories of Snowman’s life and a meal provided by the First Baptist Church of Hartland.

“How are you doing?” they asked one another over and over again. “Doin’ good. Doin’ good,” they would answer, while shaking each other’s hands or patting each other on the back.

Now and then a laugh could be heard and smiles were frequent.

Looking over the gathering, Pittsfield Fire Department Chaplain Thomas Gilbert said it has been a rough week for the area communities and their volunteers. “Now is the time for us to begin healing.”

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