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Berwick community honors fallen fire Captain two years after he died saving another firefighter

March 1, 2021, marks the second anniversary of the death of Berwick Fire Captain Joel Barnes. Barnes is credited with saving the life of a fellow firefighter.

BERWICK, Maine — Community members and firefighters honored the life of fallen Berwick Fire Captain Joel Barnes Monday with a small ceremony.

It was two years ago on March 1, 2019, that Barnes, 32, died in the line of duty while fighting a four-alarm fire at an apartment building in Berwick.

Barnes' death marked the first firefighter death in an active fire in three decades in Maine.

Following proper COVID-19 safety requirements, the event was closed to the public, but members of Barnes' family and others joined to reflect on his life.

"It's just one of those things it's hard no matter what," Joe Chambers, Berwick Fire Department's chaplain told NEWS CENTER Maine. "He was just a great guy. Great uncle, and everything about him. He was just good."

Barnes was hailed a hero for saving the life of fellow firefighter Mitch Manfredi after he shielded him with his body from a wall of flames.

Manfredi attended the ceremony and read the Firefighters Prayer. Bagpipes were played, a moment of silence was observed and the American flag was lowered to half staff.

"Capt. Joel Barnes is a hero. He arrived at the scene of a house that was engulfed in flames. Believing that residents were inside, Capt. Barnes entered the building," said Berwick Town Manager Steve Eldridge in a statement. "He died saving the life of a fellow firefighter that day."

The South Berwick Fire Department posted a remembrance on their Facebook page Wednesday to honor Captain Barnes. 

Credit: SBFD

Thousands attended a memorial service held at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. More than 7,000 firefighters alone were present. 

Governor Janet Mills honored Captain Barnes by ordering flags to be flown at half staff the day of the memorial service on March 10, 2019.

Captain Barnes was a graduate of Old Orchard Beach High School and served per diem on the Old Orchard Beach Fire Department.

RELATED: Scholarship fund created in name of fallen Berwick firefighter

Barnes worked with the Berwick Fire Department for two and a half years and was also the Department's Training Safety Officer. Before returning to Maine, Barnes worked in South Carolina at the Horry County Fire Rescue. 

A monument in his memory is set to be erected at the new Berwick Fire Station in the coming months, according to officials.