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20 Maine fire departments to receive gas detection meters in wake of deadly Farmington explosion

The gas detection meters will allow firefighters to detect the presence of dangerous gasses and take appropriate precautions to protect themselves and others.

AUGUSTA, Maine — In the wake of last September’s explosion in Farmington, which was caused by a gas leak and claimed the life of Farmington Fire Department Captain Michael Bell and injured several others, Governor Janet Mills announced Wednesday that her administration has purchased gas detection meters for twenty fire departments across Maine. 

The gas detection meters will allow firefighters to detect the presence of dangerous gasses and take appropriate precautions to protect themselves and others.

Two extra meters were purchased in the event they are needed. The remaining 20 meters will be distributed to the fire departments of Brownfield, Burlington, Cherryfield, Corinth, Danforth, Dixmont, Hiram, Littleton, Machias, Marshfield, Millinocket, Minot, North Haven, North Lakes, Old Orchard Beach, Portage Lake, Roxbury, Washburn, Waterboro and Winterport.

“Every fire department in Maine should be able to detect the presence of a gas leak and take steps to address the situation safely, especially as they work to protect others,” Mills said. “These new gas detections meters will prevent tragedies like the one in Farmington and spare us the painful loss of another heroic first responder.”

Following the explosion at the LEAP facility in Farmington last year, Mills instructed the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to determine if any fire departments in Maine lacked gas detection capabilities. The Department of Public Safety, the Maine Fire Chief’s Association and the Maine Municipal Association surveyed all Maine fire departments. Twenty departments responded that they had no way to detect the presence of a gas leak while responding to a call.

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“Our first responders put their lives on the line for Mainers every day and we’re honored to provide this support to them and their communities,” Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mike Sauschuck said. “The Department of Public Safety thanks the Maine Fire Chiefs Association and the Maine Municipal Association for their assistance with the statewide survey.”

DPS determined that the most common equipment used by fire departments with multi-gas detection capabilities is the MSA Altair 4x four gas instrument. These meters can monitor four different gases — oxygen, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide — simultaneously within lower explosive level and upper explosive level ranges.

RELATED: State report reveals technician failed to perform leak test prior to Farmington explosion

The Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) already utilizes Safeware, Inc. for purchase of this same gas detection meter for their Hazardous Materials Regional Response Teams. As a State-approved vendor, Safeware, Inc. provided the State of Maine twenty-two MSA Altair 4x four gas detection meters at a cost of $941.75 each for a total purchase price of $20,718.50. 

Mills funded the purchase through the Governor’s Contingent Account. According to Mills, MEMA will provide any necessary training to any fire departments who receive a gas detection meter.