Officials from the state fire marshal’s office say it may be the end of the week before they know exactly what caused a propane explosion that leveled a building in Farmington Tuesday, killing fire Capt. Michael Bell and critically injuring several others.
A nearby mobile home park was also severely damaged, leaving 30 people homeless.
Speaking at a news conference in Farmington on Tuesday afternoon, acting Fire Chief Tim Hardy said the department is grateful for the outpouring of support from the Farmington community and from around the country. He said the job now is to concentrate on healing.
“Right now we’re trying to focus on the needs of our firefighters as a whole. This is going to be a very long process as I’m sure everybody’s aware of but we’ll all come together and we’ll conquer this before we’re done. Thank you,” he said.
Three firefighters — Chief Terry Bell, Scott Baxter and Theodore Baxter — remain in critical condition at Maine Medical Center. Larry Lord is also in critical condition at Massachusetts General in Boston. Lord is the maintenance supervisor for LEAP, the nonprofit that was housed in the building and provides services to adults with developmental disabilities.
Farmington Police Chief Jack Peck had high praise for Lord, who took steps that Peck said likely saved lives after a propane smell was detected Monday morning.
“He was responsible for evacuating probably at least a dozen or so employees and without his quick actions I think it would have been a much more horrific tragedy,” he said.
Investigators say it’s still unclear what caused the propane explosion. Both the state fire marshal’s office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are at the scene. Meanwhile, Farmington Town Manager Richard Davis says two different funds have been established to help the injured and their families as well as those displaced by the blast. Information about both can be found on the town’s website at www.farmington-maine.org.