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Maine Town, First Responders Mourn Death of Fire Captain Killed in Line of Duty

32-year-old Captain Joel Barnes died Friday in a large apartment fire on Bell Street in Berwick, Maine

The Maine town of Berwick and first responders around New England are mourning the loss of a Berwick firefighter who died while battling an apartment building fire.

Captain Joel Barnes died and four other firefighters were injured Friday. Berwick Fire Chief Dennis Plante says the 32-year-old Barnes "died a hero, battling a large and dangerous building fire'' and "made the ultimate sacrifice for his community.''

Barnes was a paramedic and served as the Berwick Fire and Rescue training officer and emergency medical services coordinator. Before joining Berwick Fire in 2016, he previously worked for South Berwick Rescue, York Ambulance, and the Old Orchard Beach Fire Department. He was also actively involved with the Acton Fire Department as a per diem firefighter. 

"Firefighters run toward danger and into places that everyone else is running away from. Captain Barnes lost his life saving others, while we honor him, we are struck with a profound sense of grief today," said Berwick Town Manager Stephen G. Eldridge. "On behalf of the enter Berwick community, I wish to thank everyone for their offers of support and expressions of condolence."

The town says the Berwick police and fire crews escorted the captain's body from the medical examiner's office in Concord, New Hampshire, to the Tasker Funeral Home in Dover, New Hampshire, on Saturday while firefighters and police were stationed in salute over major overpasses of Route 4. The procession was joined by the Dover Fire Department as it reached city limits.

Gov. Janet Mills says Barnes "will be forever remembered for his courage and service to our state.''

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins called Barnes a hero "who lost his life while bravely seeking to save the lives of others."

"Maine will be eternally grateful for his sacrifice and for all of our firefighters who face extreme danger to protect our communities," Sen. Collins wrote on Twitter.

Condolences have poured in from across New England, from Maine to Hampton, New Hampshire.

In Boston, Fire Commissioner Joe Finn shared his condolences on Twitter on behalf of the city's department.

"On behalf of @BostonFire we offer our condolences and support to the family and friends of Berwick, Maine Fire Captain Joel Barnes, killed in the Line of Duty at a 4 Alarm building fire on March 1st. Rest In Peace Capt."

Captain Barnes' family requests that any donations being made in his name go to the Berwick Volunteer Firefighters Association in his memory, c/o Kennebunk Saving Bank, 2 School Street, Berwick, ME 03901.

The origin and cause of the fatal fire remain under investigation.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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