The odor of natural gas was wafting through Farmington, Maine, on Monday morning, prompting firefighters to investigate a newly constructed building that housed a nonprofit.

The ensuing explosion killed a town fire captain and injured six firefighters and one maintenance worker, state officials said. It also leveled the building and sent plumes of insulation and loose paper into the air, the debris later settling on the ground like volcanic ash.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office will investigate the explosion, Gov. Janet Mills (D) said.

“Our hearts go out to all those impacted by this tragedy, especially to the loved ones of the firefighter lost and others injured,” Mills said in a statement.


She later said at a news conference that she knew Capt. Michael Bell, the 68-year-old firefighter who died in the blast. Bell was a 30-year veteran of the department, said Steve McCausland, the spokesman for the state’s department of public safety.


Bell’s brother, the Farmington Fire Chief Terry Bell, was also among the injured. So, too, were father-son firefighters Theodore and Scott Baxter, Timothy Hardy, Joseph Hastings and Deputy Chief Clyde Ross. All but Ross were seriously injured, McCausland said, and are still being treated at a hospital in Portland.

Larry Lord, who was a maintenance worker at the building, was also hurt and was airlifted to a Boston hospital for treatment.

The blast appears to have been accidental, Farmington Police Chief Jack Peck said.

People evacuated the building, which served as headquarters for the nonprofit LEAP, after the odor of gas was detected. The organization, which helps people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities, said in a statement that none of its staffers were in the building during the explosion.


“Our hearts go out to anyone injured or impacted today,” the nonprofit wrote in a message posted to Facebook. “There were many heros whose actions today saved additional lives. Those heros included first responders, LEAP staff and neighbors.”

Jacob Gage, who was in bed during the explosion, told CNN that he initially thought someone had plowed into the building with a vehicle.

“The building shook with a thunderous boom and we lost power,” he said. “The scene was very ominous. There was still insulation falling from the sky like a gentle snow, and first responders were running around trying to administer first aid.”

Photos taken by Gage show debris-strewn streets and cars with shattered windshields.

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