The propane tank that fed the heating system at LEAP Inc. in Farmington was filled with 400 gallons of fuel on Friday, Sept. 13.

By the next Monday morning – shortly before an explosion destroyed the building, killing one firefighter and injuring several others – the tank was nearly empty.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office confirmed Friday that propane had been leaking from a line buried under the parking lot and that leak caused the explosion. But investigators still don’t know what caused the leak or what produced the spark that triggered the explosion.

Fire Marshal Joe Thomas said the investigation is still “very much active” and more than 100 people have been interviewed so far.

“For us to conclude anything specific, we have to eliminate all possible sources,” he said. “So we’re working our way through that process.”

Investigators said the leaked propane permeated the ground under the paved parking lot at LEAP Inc., a nonprofit that serves adults with cognitive and developmental disabilities in Franklin County, and that some of the gas made its way into the basement. Propane has a distinct smell from a chemical that is added to the otherwise odorless gas, but officials believe the odor may have been filtered by the soil under the parking lot.

Some residents of a mobile home park behind the LEAP building said they had smelled gas weeks before the explosion but never brought those concerns to any officials. All 11 mobiles homes in the park were rendered uninhabitable by the explosion. Thirty people were displaced.

The Fire Marshal’s Office on Friday also released details about where the firefighters were when the explosion happened.

Timothy “TD” Hardy, Joseph Hastings and Scott Baxter were in the basement of the building with Larry Lord, the maintenance manager for LEAP. Capt. Michael Bell, who was killed, was on the first floor. Fire Chief Terry Bell was near the rear door of the building. Deputy Fire Chief Clyde Ross and Firefighter Ted Baxter were outside the building in the parking lot.

The explosion tore the two-story building off its foundation and sent debris 200 feet into the air.

Thomas, the fire marshal, said CN Brown installed the propane tank at the LEAP building, which had just completed its addition this spring. CN Brown has declined to comment.

Thomas did not say who installed the fuel line, citing the investigation.

LEAP Executive Director Darryl Wood also has declined to provide any specifics about the building while the investigation is ongoing. The agency has relocated to an office park in Wilton, whose owners donated space.

Four others were critically injured in the explosion. Terry Bell and Scott Baxter remain at Maine Medical Center in Portland in fair and serious condition, respectively. Lord is at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. His condition is critical and investigators have not yet interviewed him, the fire marshal said.

Hastings, Hardy and Ted Baxter were released from the hospital last week.

 

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.