Every day, Maine police and firefighters put themselves in danger to help others. Recent emergencies in Bangor and neighboring Quebec shone a spotlight on their good work. The first responders who rushed to both a shooting and fatal parade accident in Bangor on July Fourth, and those who volunteered to help in the aftermath of a deadly train explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on July 6, deserve recognition for difficult jobs done well.
When Bangor police received a report around 8:30 a.m. July 4 that someone was shooting inside a second-story apartment in downtown Bangor and out the window, they evacuated surrounding buildings to protect residents. They then negotiated with the man inside the apartment for two long hours and finally used tear gas to get the suspect out. Not one person was hurt, and the man accused of firing 70 rounds of ammunition, Perrin Oliver, 43, previously of Detroit, Mich., was taken into custody.
The situation could have turned deadly, but police acted with professionalism. Officials also rerouted the Fourth of July parade to avoid the shooting scene. During that parade, another horrific emergency occurred when a 1930 firetruck struck a vintage tractor driven by Wallace Fenlason, 63, of Holden from behind. Fenlason was knocked to the ground and killed instantly. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones who are grieving the loss of someone they described as giving, kind and an active community member and volunteer.
Our thoughts are also with the off-duty Bangor firefighter, Patrick Heathcote, 29, of Levant, who was driving the firetruck, which apparently had a mechanical malfunction. One spectator described the anguished look on the man’s face when he realized he couldn’t stop the vehicle. There wasn’t any way to prevent families from seeing the crash, but firefighters and police responded quickly. They covered the body and immediately sent out a stress management team and chaplain for those who were understandably traumatized. Police will continue to investigate the collision.
Early Saturday, Maine first responders learned of another incident that has and will continue to cause great suffering: A train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in a small Quebec town near the Maine border, incinerating at least 30 buildings and killing 13 people. As of Monday evening, dozens of people were still missing. Accounting for the loss has only just begun — of the individuals who lost their lives, destroyed pieces of history, environmental damage and infrastructure that must be replaced.
Alongside Canadian authorities, Maine firefighters were there to do what they could. The surroundings were dangerous, with people fearing another explosion, and the work was extensive and exhausting. About 30 volunteer firefighters from Rangeley, Eustis, Farmington, New Vineyard, Phillips, Strong and Chesterville lent their hand to a neighbor, to “assist any way they needed,” said Farmington Fire Chief Terry Bell.
That is the credo of first responders across Maine, and it was evident last week. We are grateful for their work.