Berwick Fire Capt. Joel Barnes SUBMITTED PHOTO/Courtesy of the Barnes family

OLD ORCHARD BEACH — A bench at Veterans Memorial Park will be dedicated on Sept. 11 to the late Joel Barnes, a firefighter who grew up in Old Orchard Beach and died a hero on March 1.

Barnes, a firefighter for the town of Berwick, responded on March 1 with his crew to a four-alarm fire in an apartment building in Berwick. He and a fellow firefighter were trapped on the third floor of the apartment, and as flames neared, he threw himself on top of his colleague to shield him from the heat and flames.

Barnes died that day at the age of 32 of hyperthermia, according to the state fire marshal.

The cause of the fire was determined to be discarded smoking material, the state fire marshal said.

Barnes is believed to have been the first firefighter to have died in a fire in Maine in more than 38 years. About 2,500 people gathered at a service to honor Barnes on March 10 at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

Barnes was a 2005 graduate of Old Orchard Beach High School and early in his career had worked for the Old Orchard Beach Fire Department.

The Veterans Memorial Flag Raising Committee, a community group in Old Orchard Beach made up of volunteers, will be honoring Barnes at a flag raising ceremony at 6 p.m. Sept. 11 at Veterans Memorial Park, 4 Heath St., Old Orchard Beach.

A memorial bench will be dedicated in honor of Barnes in the park following the service.

Barnes will also be inducted in the Old Orchard Beach High School Hall of Fame at the all-school reunion on Sept. 14. A scholarship to be awarded to an Old Orchard Beach High School graduate pursuing a career in firefighting is also being created in Barnes’ name.

Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be reached at 780-9015 or by email at [email protected]

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