Maine firefighters return to full-time coverage at station after fatal blast

More than 80 departments and dozens of volunteers have pitched in to help Farmington firefighters after the Sept. 16 explosion


By Donna M. Perry
Sun Journal

FARMINGTON, Maine — Members of the Rangeley and Gray Fire Rescue departments, along with a Wilton firefighter, took the last shift Wednesday for the Farmington Fire Rescue Department, six weeks after a deadly propane explosion killed one firefighter and injured six others.

Although outside personnel have assisted the department over the past few weeks, it has had someone on duty at all times, according to information provided by Capt. Robb Couture, public information officer for the South Portland Fire Department.

A police officer stands guard at the scene of a deadly propane explosion which leveled new construction in Farmington, Maine. (Photo/Donna Perry, Sun Journal via AP)
A police officer stands guard at the scene of a deadly propane explosion which leveled new construction in Farmington, Maine. (Photo/Donna Perry, Sun Journal via AP)

At 7 a.m. Thursday “the last outside coverage shift change will take place, and the department will return to what it is calling ‘the new normal,'” according to a Farmington Fire Rescue Department news release.

Assistant Chief Tim Hardy will hold a news conference at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Farmington Fire Station, 153 Farmington Falls Road.

More than 80 departments and dozens of volunteers have pitched in to help Farmington firefighters after the Sept. 16 explosion at LEAP Inc.’s central office and training facility on Farmington Falls Road.

Capt. Mike Bell was killed in the blast. The six other firefighters have since been released from medical facilities. LEAP maintenance supervisor Larry Lord remains at a Massachusetts hospital in serious condition.

“To the community, Franklin County Emergency Management Agency, and the Portland Burn Foundation, your outpouring of compassion and support helped guide us through this tragic event, and we can never thank you enough,” the Farmington department wrote in a news release Wednesday. “Know that we consider you part of our extended family.”

“Lastly, as we return to serve and protect our community, we ask that everyone keep Larry Lord and his family in your thoughts and prayers,” it said.

Rangeley Fire Rescue Department took the first shift Sept. 16 and firefighters wanted to take the last one, Capt. Jonny Wakefield said.

“We have taken as many shifts as possible,” he said. “We are taking the last shift to kind of wrap things up.”

Gray Fire Rescue Department has provided coverage three times and was covering a 24-hour shift Wednesday. Rangeley covered the day shift with them.

The list of fire departments that assisted is long, not factoring in individual volunteer firefighters.

No one was asked to help, they just volunteered, said Gerry Pineau, a full-time firefighter with Westbrook, and part-time firefighter at Freeport and Scarborugh departments. He has helped organize coverage for Farmington.

“Now it is kind of cool because we have rolled it back into Farmington Fire,” he said.

Firefighters were running errands Wednesday to return equipment, furniture, refrigerators, grills and other items departments and people donated for use at the station.

“Farmington has always been there for us whether it was to help with a call or help with training,” Wakefield said. “We’ve trained with them. We know a lot of them … To us it was nothing special. They would have done the same for us. We’ve always had a real tight bond with them. They are family.”

“It was an honor to come up,”  Lt. Dan Mayotte of the Waterville Fire Rescue Department said.

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©2019 the Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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