FARMINGTON, Maine — Four of the seven people who were injured in Monday morning’s explosion in Farmington that killed a fire captain are in critical condition at hospitals in Portland and Boston.
Maine Medical Center announced just before noon Tuesday that Farmington fire Chief Terry Bell, Capt. Scott Baxter and his father, Theodore Baxter, are in critical condition, while Capt. Timothy Hardy and Joseph Hastings are in fair condition. The building’s maintenance manager, Larry Lord of Jay, is in critical condition at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. A sixth firefighter was treated at a Farmington hospital Monday and released.
The news comes as officials with the Maine fire marshal’s office and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives on Tuesday morning arrived at the scene at 313 Farmington Falls Road, where a two-story building that housed the nonprofit LEAP Inc. exploded following a propane leak. LEAP provides residential services and programming for adults with developmental disabilities.
Sgt. Ken Grimes of the fire marshal’s office said he expects more news about the investigation to be released by week’s end. He called it a “tremendous explosion” that was “the worst one that I have seen in terms of structural damage and neighborhood damage.”
“It’s a slow, methodical process that is going to take some time,” Grimes said of the investigation.
Townspeople and first responders gathered along Farmington’s Main Street and near the fire station Tuesday morning to watch a procession carrying the body of Capt. Michael Bell, 68, the brother of the fire department’s chief who died Monday after working for the Farmington Fire Department for 30 years.
Wendy Denning of Wilton, came to the procession dressed in her Wilbraham, Massachusetts, fire jacket, where she retired as a firefighter after 24 years. Though she did not know Bell personally, she said the procession was “where I need to be.”
“I’ve been doing this for so long and attended so many funerals, it just seemed appropriate to honor these guys and understand what they’re going through,” she said. “It’s going to take a while for them — they need to talk about it, and the town needs to just stand by them for the next couple days, because it’s going to be hard.”
Kathy Ann Bouley, a Farmington resident and substitute teacher in the local school system, said showing up felt like the best way she could support her community.
“The whole thing is just heartwrecking,” she said. “To see my community struggle, it’s a big thing.”
The explosion happened shortly after 8 a.m. Monday, minutes after firefighters had been called to the LEAP building for a propane smell. 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.
Scott Landry, who represents Farmington in the Maine House and serves on the local select board and on LEAP’s board, said the board of directors will meet tomorrow to decide where to place their clients and 200 full- and part-time employees. He said two possible locations are the Key Bank building in Wilton and the Healthy Community Coalition building across from Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington.
Landry called Lord a “hero” and Michael Bell, whom Landry had known for 40 years, “a great man,” in a message to the community released Tuesday morning. Lord smelled the leak and hustled people out of the building before he was injured in the blast.
“There are no words to describe the devastation our community is experiencing right now. There is no town closer than ours, and every one of us has been deeply impacted by this tragedy,” he said. “My heart is with all of my neighbors as we grieve this loss together.”
BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.