Gov. Janet Mills ordered flags to fly at half staff until sundown Sunday in honor of Berwick Fire Capt. Joel Barnes, who died Friday in a fire in Berwick.

Berwick Fire Capt. Joel Barnes died shielding a fellow firefighter.

“Captain Barnes’ life and service to his community exemplified the very best of humanity: unfaltering courage, selflessness, and love for his fellow man,” Mills said in a statement released Tuesday. “The collective heart of our state mourns the loss of a hero. Captain Barnes’ legacy will guide and inspire us for generations to come. As we gaze upon our flags at half-staff over these next several days, let us remember Captain Barnes, pay tribute to his legacy, and pray for his family, fellow first responders and his community.”

Hundreds of firefighters and first responders from around New England are expected to pay tribute to Barnes on Sunday during a public memorial ceremony at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. A private family Mass will be held Sunday prior to the public ceremony.

Immediately following the services, a procession will go to Calvary Cemetery in South Portland, where Barnes will be buried with full fire department honors.

Barnes, 32, was a paramedic and served as the Berwick Fire and Rescue training officer and emergency medical services coordinator. He was a 2005 graduate of Old Orchard Beach High School and previously had worked at the Old Orchard Beach Fire Department.

Barnes was credited with saving the life of another firefighter by shielding him from the intensity of the flames. Crews from 17 communities worked to control the four-alarm apartment building fire on Friday. Four other firefighters were treated for injuries and released from a hospital.


Barnes’ family is asking that any donations made in his name go to the Berwick Volunteer Firefighters Association, care of Kennebunk Saving Bank, 2 School St., Berwick 03901.

Meanwhile, the investigation into the fire continues, said state Fire Marshal Joseph E. Thomas.

The flag is at half-staff Tuesday at the Portland Fire Department’s Central Station on Congress Street in memory of Berwick Fire Capt. Joel Barnes, who died Friday in a fire in Berwick. In the foreground is The Fireman Statue. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Officials with the Bureau of Labor Standards are expected to begin examining Barne’s firefighting gear to determine if it functioned properly and to gather information that could help determine Barnes’s cause and manner of death.

An autopsy was done on Barnes on Saturday by the New Hampshire Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, but results have not been released.

Investigators are also picking through the rubble on Bell Street in a search of the cause of the fire, Thomas said. Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are building a computer model of the fire to learn more about how it spread, Thomas said.

He expects the investigation to continue at least through this week.

“I think what’s going to happen, at least through this week, (is) all of those moving parts will come together,” Thomas said. “When that happens, we’ll have an outcome debriefing on the entire situation.”

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