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Firefighter Killed in Explosion That Leveled Maine Facility for People With Disabilities

"Our hearts go out to all those impacted by this tragedy," Gov. Janet Mills said on Twitter

What to Know

  • A firefighter was killed and seven other people injured during an explosion that flattened a building in Farmington, Maine.
  • The building was the main administrative building of LEAP, an organization that helps disadvantaged and disabled adults.
  • Gov. Janet Mills said she was monitoring the situation and that "Our hearts go out to all those impacted by this tragedy."

A veteran firefighter is dead and seven other people injured, including his brother, after a powerful propane gas explosion Monday ripped through a facility that serves people with disabilities in Farmington, Maine. The building was reduced to rubble.

The blast rocked the area and sent dust high into the sky, according to witnesses. Many of the other victims who were hurt were seriously injured, state fire officials said hours after the blast, while the investigation was still ongoing. 

The smell of gas at the recently renovated Life Enrichment Advancing People, or LEAP, building was first reported to firefighters at 8:07 a.m., according to Farmington police. The building exploded when firefighters were arriving to the scene. 

The firefighter who died was from the Farmington Fire Department; four other local firefighters were hurt, along with a LEAP employee and a Northstar EMS worker, police said. 

"Our hearts go out to all those impacted by this tragedy," Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement, adding that she was monitoring the situation.

The slain firefighter was identified as Farmington Fire Capt. Michael Bell, who had been on the force 30 years. Six other firefighters were hurt, five of them seriously, according to the Maine Fire Marshal's Office. A maintenance worker was also hurt and flown to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Among the seriously wounded was Bell's brother, Farmington Fire Chief Terry Bell.

Earlier, officials had said that just six people were injured.

Shocking video on social media showed massive plumes of smoke billowing from the area, and the facility laid to waste. Several emergency responders could be seen, as well as nearby trees covered in debris.

The explosion happened five minutes after children were being picked up at the bus stop in front of the building, Farmington Select Board Member H. Scott Landry said.

Jennifer Damon was in her home on Farmington Falls Road when she felt the explosion.

“The whole house shook twice and the power flickered out,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine what had happened, it was such a shake.”

“I went outside and it was like it was snowing outside,” she added.

Damon said she heard screaming for help. The force of the explosion caused shampoo bottles to fall off shelves at her home.

Drivers were asked to avoid streets near 313 Farmington Falls Road.

Details on what led up to the explosion were not clear. The investigation is ongoing.

The Propane Gas Association of New England is working with local officials during the investigation, it said in a statement.

"Our hearts and prayers are with the victims and their families," the statement said.

LEAP was founded in 1980. Its goal is to help house, care for and engage with people with developmental, cognitive and intellectual disabilities, according to its website.

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