Capt. Joel Barnes, the Berwick firefighter who died last year while battling an apartment building fire, will be honored Sunday during ceremonies in Berwick and Portland.

Barnes, 32, died from injuries he sustained after he and another firefighter got trapped on the third floor of a burning apartment building in Berwick on March 1, 2019. His family and colleagues said Barnes’ last act was to shield another firefighter as flames and heat pressed in around them.

Berwick Fire Capt. Joel Barnes Photo courtesy of the Barnes family

The Berwick Fire Department will hold a public memorial ceremony at 10:45 a.m. Sunday in front of the fire station on School Street. Members of the department will then travel to Portland, where Barnes will again be recognized during the Mariners hockey game, according to Town Manager Stephen Eldridge, who said Barnes’ death was a tragedy for the town.

The Mariners will honor Barnes during Sunday’s hockey game, the second time this year the team has recognized the firefighter. In January, a “Battle of the Badges” hockey tournament was held at the Cross Insurance Arena to raise money for the Captain Barnes Memorial Fund. More than $2,200 was raised at that event.

On Sunday, members of the Berwick Fire Department will present the colors and conduct the ceremonial puck drop. A moment of silence will honor Barnes. During the second intermission, the first Captain Joel Barnes Community Service Award will be handed out. The award was created in partnership with the Mariners, Teamsters Local 340 and the Berwick Firefighters Association.

Finalists for the community service award are Kevin Leavitt of the Richmond Fire Department, David Petruccelli of the Portland Fire Department and Matthew St. Pierre of the Hampden Fire Department.

Barnes, who lived in Shapleigh, was honored last year during a somber public funeral service attended by thousands as a hero who had dedicated his life to helping others.

“It’s not what you do for a living, it’s who you are,” his uncle, also named Joel Barnes, said during the funeral service. “He loved his profession. He lived to protect the rest of us.”

Barnes grew up in Old Orchard Beach and showed interest in fire service from the time he was a toddler. After attending Old Orchard Beach High School and Southern Maine Community College, he spent time working at South Berwick Rescue, York Ambulance, Old Orchard Beach Fire Department, and as a firefighter and paramedic in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He also was a per diem firefighter in Acton.

After his death, Barnes was remembered in the small town of Berwick as a community-minded first responder who was dedicated to his work and drew meaning from helping others. He loved to bring his young nephew to visit the fire station and teach fire safety classes in local schools.

“In my mind, he’s a hero,” Berwick Fire Chief Dennis Plante said last year after Barnes’ death. “… Capt. Barnes did everything he could to save his partner.”

A monthslong investigation by the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office determined the fire at 10 Bell St. was caused by improperly discarded smoking materials. The fire department was later fined by the Maine Department of Labor for violations discovered during a review after the fire, but the department’s report did not indicate whether the violations involving communication, safety assessment and oxygen tanks played a role in Barnes’ death.

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