One year later, Farmington, Maine is remembering a sudden moment of loss.
On the morning of Sept. 16, 2019, a propane explosion destroyed a nonprofit’s office building there, killing a fire captain and injuring seven others inside.
On Wednesday, Farmington firefighters, Maine Gov. Janet Mills and others from the local community gathered for a brief remembrance event in honor of Farmington Fire Capt. Michael Bell, who lost his life in the blast; the six firefighters who survived but were injured and Larry Lord, an employee at the nonprofit who suffered severe burns.
Members of the public were invited to drive by the site of the explosion, where a fire truck displayed an American flag.
Below the flag were pieces of Bell’s firefighting gear, including a hat, coat and boots.
Mills, who had ordered Maine flags to half staff to recognize the explosion on Wednesday, told those gathered at the ceremony that she “prays to God” a tragedy like the explosion does not happen again in any Maine community.
Brinlee Gage, 9, watched the speakers from across the street with her grandmother. Her grandfather was a firefighter who responded to the explosion scene.
She recalled the moment she heard the blast and saw insulation in the air as she made her way to school on the bus.
“I got to school and I almost started breaking down because I did not want my grandfather to get hurt in this accident,” Brinlee said.
The cause of the explosion was determined to be a propane leak caused when a bollard being installed near the building, the offices of a nonprofit for people with disabilities called LEAP, severed a gas line into the building.
What actually ignited the blast was not determined.
Town officials said there are plans to install a memorial sculpture at the explosion site and fundraising efforts to support people who lost loved ones, were injured or lost homes after it happened have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.