FARMINGTON, Maine —
State and federal investigators on Tuesday started processing the scene of Monday’s deadly explosion in Farmington, according to state police.
Investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s Office and investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are sifting through the debris in an attempt to pinpoint a cause of the explosion that killed Capt. Michael Bell and injured seven others.
Bell was a 30-year veteran of the Farmington Fire Department.
Officials said they will provide an update on the investigation at 3 p.m.
The building that exploded was the headquarters for LEAP, Inc., a nonprofit that works with people with developmental and cognitive disabilities.
Route 2, where the building was located, is expected to be closed until Tuesday evening.
The six most seriously injured were identified as Fire Chief Terry Bell, 62, who is the brother of Michael Bell; Capt. Timothy D. Hardy, 40; Capt. Scott Baxter, 37, and his father, firefighter Theodore Baxter, 64; firefighter Joseph Hastings, 24, and Larry Lord, 60.
Lord was the only one injured who was not a firefighter. Officials said he is a maintenance worker at the facility.
Deputy Fire Chief Clyde Ross was treated and released from Franklin Memorial Hospital.
The five firefighters are being treated for serious injuries at Maine Medical Center in Portland. Lord was taken to Mass General in Boston.
“It Looks Like A War Zone”
Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols was one of the first people at the scene. He helped pull some people from the rubble.
“I spent a year in Iraq. As close as I can explain it, it was just total devastation. I’ve never seen destruction like that in my career, and I’ve been in law enforcement for 35 years — never, ever anything like this before in my life, except overseas. It’s horrible,” Nichols said.
Farmington Board of Selectmen member H. Scott Landry was also at the scene and described similar devastation.
“It looks like a war zone here. The newly constructed building is gone. The adjacent building is half down. They are hosing down what debris is left of the building, not much,” Landry said.
Police said the building was recently renovated and expanded. They said multiple homes near the explosion were damaged.
A Community In Mourning
The explosion is devastating to the small town of Farmington. Firefighters saluted Monday as Bell’s body was removed from the rubble of the explosion.
A procession then took the body to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Augusta.
Bell’s body was brought back to Farmington Tuesday morning. Firefighters and other first responders from across the area lined the outside of the funeral home to salute Bell as his body arrived.
Members of the community also gathered for two vigils Monday night to honor Bell and the others injured.
Residents said they wanted to pay their respects to the victims.
“We decided to come today even though we didn’t know the firefighter personally to support the town and show that we care for our first responders and the people who really try to help others,” said University of Maine Farmington student Madeline
Gov. Mills Responds
Gov. Janet Mills first responded to the explosion Monday morning on social media saying that she was monitoring the situation and getting updates from investigators.
Farmington is the governor’s hometown, and she traveled there later in the day to see the destruction for herself.
“Our hearts go out to all those impacted by this tragedy, especially to the loved ones of the firefighter lost and others injured. I am grateful for the work of first responders who are at the scene and urge Maine people to avoid the area,” Mills said.
Mills has ordered all flags to fly at half-staff through sunset Wednesday for the fallen firefighter.
Explosion’s Lasting Impact
Officials said the explosion will have a lasting impact on the small community. Police said they were not aware of any Farmington firefighter dying in the line of duty before.
Officials said the firefighters injured were part of the small department’s full-time staff.
“It’s just devastating to think the whole shift of a fire department just got blown up. How do you absorb that? I don’t, very well,” Landry said.
Residents Displaced By Explosion
The American Red Cross is helping 10 people displaced by the explosion.
The blast also damaged several homes in the area.
The Red Cross said its disaster responders are helping the 10 people displaced with immediate needs, like food, housing and other essentials.
The organization said it is also making its casework, disaster mental health and disaster spiritual care services available to community members.
How To Help
The United Way of the Tri-Valley Area has created a fund to help those affected by Monday’s explosion in Farmington.
The fund will benefit affected LEAP employees, first responders, their families and others.
The United Way of the Tri-Valley Area encouraged anyone affected to come to their office for help.
Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so on the agency’s website or by sending a donation via mail to them at P.O. Box 126, Farmington, ME, 04938
Donations can also be dropped off at 218 Fairbanks Road in Farmington.