Joel Barnes, a fire captain with the Berwick Fire Department who died fighting an apartment blaze, hadn’t lived in Shapleigh long, but among the firefighter community in southern Maine, he was well known and well liked.
“Everybody loved him. He was a great person,” said Denise DeAngelis, an EMT and firefighter in Shapleigh. “He did what he loved doing. So, you know the sacrifices you must make sometimes. I think anyone of us would give a life to save a life.”
Fellow firefighters said Barnes was a man they could count on when it mattered most.
Barnes’ father, Michael Barnes, said his son wanted to be a firefighter since he was 10, and that he understood the risks that come with the job.
Michael Barnes said his son and another firefighter became trapped on the third floor of an apartment building, where Joel Barnes protected that firefighter from the heat and the flames as the two waited to be rescued.
Michael Barnes said his son is “not just a hero because he was a firefighter; he died in the line of duty, and he saved someone’s life in the process.”
“Using his body as a shield,” neighbor Regan Adams said. “He knew the chances going in, and he just did it.”
“Lost his life to save another,” neighbor and firefighter Isaiah Spinney said. “Absolutely heroic. Yes. Absolutely. It was a great thing he did. It’s too bad he didn’t make it.”
“It was very heroic what he did,” said DeAngelis, the EMT and firefighter from Shapleigh. “He’s a very good person. He’d do anything for anybody.”
The public services for Barnes will be held 11 a.m. Sunday at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.