FARMINGTON, Maine — A Farmington fire captain died and his brother, the town’s fire chief, was among seven others injured in an explosion Monday morning on Route 2 that leveled the home of a nonprofit, destroyed nearby homes and scattered debris for more than a mile.
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Capt. Michael Bell, 68, who had worked for the department for 30 years, was killed, according to Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland. Farmington police Chief Jack Peck Jr. told reporters on Monday that Bell died in the explosion after the department responded to an apparent propane leak at the two-story building housing LEAP Inc., which serves adults with developmental disabilities.
Six other Farmington firefighters, including Bell’s brother, Chief Terry Bell; Capt. Timothy Hardy; Capt. Scott Baxter; his father, Theodore Baxter; and Joseph Hastings, were injured alongside 60-year-old Larry Lord of Jay, the building’s maintenance manager. Deputy Fire Chief Clyde Ross was treated and released at a Farmington hospital.
All other living victims of the blast were airlifted to other hospitals from Farmington. Maine Medical Center said it admitted five victims by Monday afternoon, with four in intensive care. Lord was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Town Manager Richard Davis said he knew Michael Bell to be a “quiet, unassuming man” who was deeply involved in the local firefighting community. Scott Landry, a Farmington selectman, state representative and board member of LEAP, said he was upset by the loss and injuries to the firefighters and Lord, calling Michael Bell a “just fantastic guy.”
Almost 11 hours after the blast, members of the community gathered at the Old South Church in Farmington to pray for everyone affected during a silent candlelight vigil.
The Rev. Margaret Proctor of the Congregational church said the community had survived tragedies before, but “people came together then,” she said, “and may it be so here.”
“This town will rebuild both physically and spiritually, and come together,” she said.
The explosion happened at 313 Farmington Falls Road — also known as Route 2 — around 8:30 a.m. Monday. The powerful explosion could be heard from as far away as Livermore, which is more than 30 miles southwest. Closer to the scene, insulation from the building piled up like snow and papers with personal information were scattered on yards.