Fire Marshal investigator Larry Moral carries Fire Capt. Michael Bell’s helmet to Stephan Bunker of the Farmington Fire Department at 313 Farmington Falls Road in Farmington on Tuesday where it was found amid the rubble from Monday’s explosion. (Michael G. Seamans / Morning Sentinel )

FARMINGTON — State and federal investigators Tuesday had not pinpointed the cause of an explosion Monday morning at the LEAP building that killed fire Capt. Michael Bell and injured six firefighters and a maintenance supervisor. 

Bell, a 30-year member of the Farmington Fire Rescue Department, and other firefighters responded to a report of an odor of propane at 8:07 a.m. Monday at the Life Enrichment Advancing People building at 313 Farmington Falls Road (Route 2). 

Right after firefighters arrived, the two-story building exploded, damaging or destroying more than a dozen nearby residences. 

During a news conference Tuesday, Sgt. Ken Grimes of the Office of the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office said investigators were continuing to look for answers, including the possibility it was a liquid propane explosion. 

Investigators on Monday conducted  interviews and assessed the building and what was in it. 

On Tuesday, they released firetrucks back to their respective departments, recovered some firefighter gear that was given to the Fire Department and did some excavation work at the site, Grimes said. 

“It is a slow, methodical process,” he said. 

Grimes said state fire officials and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigators are hoping to have answers this week to what caused the explosion. 

Grimes confirmed a white firefighter’s helmet recovered from the debris belonged to Bell, who was 68 and the brother of Fire Chief Terry Bell, 62. 

The injured 

Acting Fire Chief Tim Hardy, a 41-year member of the department, said town firefighters are continuing to serve the community and have the support of other fire departments. 

His son, Capt. Timothy “TD” Hardy, was injured in the explosion. Messages of concern and support have been coming in from the community and around the country, the senior Hardy said. 

He gave an update on the conditions of injured firefighters provided by Maine Medical Center in Portland, where they are recovering. 

Fire Chief Bell, Capt. Scott Baxter and his father, firefighter Theodore “Ted” Baxter, were listed in critical condition. Hardy’s son and firefighter Joseph Hastings were listed in fair condition as of 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. 

Deputy Fire Chief Clyde Ross was treated and released Monday from Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington. 

A maintenance worker for LEAP, Larry Lord of Jay, is being treated for burns over 50 percent of his body, broken bones, multiple traumas and other critical injuries, according to a GoFundMe account — — set up to help the family. 

As of 5:45 p.m. Tuesday, $31,040 of a $40,000 goal to help the Lord family had been raised in about six hours. 

Lord is credited with getting the dozen or so employees out of the building prior to the explosion, which flattened the structure. 

Lord is in the intensive-care burn unit at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He is expected to be at the hospital for about four months. 

Honoring the fallen 

Firefighters, police officers, emergency medical responders and many others paid their respects to Bell on Tuesday by lining several streets as a procession of vehicles, including the hearse carrying Bell’s body, traveled from the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to Wiles Remembrance Center on Route 2. 

Emergency responders lined up across from the center and saluted as the procession passed and entered the parking lot. The procession went under the Jay and Wilton Fire departments’ ladder trucks, which had a large American flag hanging from the top of the ladders. 

The University of Maine at Farmington canceled classes until noon. Many businesses also closed out of respect and to watch the procession. 

“Last evening’s candlelight vigils and today’s memorial procession for Farmington Fire Capt. Michael Bell are a moving testament to the profound sense of sorrow and grief many in our community are now experiencing,” UMF President Edward Serna wrote in a  statement. 

“The loss of life and injuries are heartbreaking for us. In the short time I have been here, I have come to see how closely linked the Farmington and UMF communities are and the strong sense of responsibility people have for their fellow townspeople, neighbors and colleagues. 

“Especially today, no one here is an island. Especially today, we are all part of the main. In the coming days, we will learn more about how this tragedy has directly affected people about whom we care deeply. As our understanding grows, so too may our anguish. We will need to draw on the strength of our compassion and our strong sense of community to see each other through this difficult time.” 

Linda Brown of Farmington waited Tuesday on the side of Route 2 for the procession to pass. 

“How can you top it off?’” she said. “(Michael Bell) was just an awesome guy. How else can you put it?” 

Brown said her husband has been on the Farmington Fire Rescue Department for years. Bell was her neighbor and she went to school with him and his wife, Diana. 

Donald Simoneau of Fayette said he is a good friend of Lord, the LEAP maintenance worker. 

“Larry and I did hunter safety courses for years,” he said. “It is just so unfair.” 

Simoneau said Lord has had a rough few years, including the loss of his college-age son in 2011. 

Firetrucks and firefighters from as far away as Norway and Scarborough joined the procession. Fire departments from around the state are covering Farmington’s station, and firefighters are standing guard outside the remembrance center. 

Police Chief Jack Peck said throughout the tragedy he has been overwhelmed by the support that has been provided by the community and businesses. 

Officials have seen an outpouring of support from the community to meet the needs of first responders, Town Manager Richard Davis said. 

Davis said support can be shown through the Farmington Firemen’s Benevolent Association. There will be a link to it soon on the town’s website — 

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: