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'We will get through this': Farmington community reflects, mourns after deadly explosion

Dozens of community members filled two local churches Monday evening for prayer services and a candlelight vigil following a deadly early morning explosion.

FARMINGTON, Maine — Community members in Farmington are determined to move forward together after a deadly explosion Monday morning left one firefighter dead and several others badly injured.

The powerful, apparent gas-related blast at LEAP, Inc., shook the immediate community, shattering nearby windows and dispersing debris all over.

Fire Capt. Michael Bell, 68, was killed in the explosion, according to Maine's Public Safety Department spokesperson Steve McCausland. He was a part-time member of the department and among its seven in leadership roles.

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Capt. Bell's brother Terry Bell, the department's chief, was among six other fire personnel injured, the state fire marshal's office said. Also hurt: Capt. Timothy D. Hardy, 40; Capt. Scott Baxter, 37; Capt. Baxter's father, Firefighter Theodore Baxter, 64; Firefighter Joseph Hastings, 24; and Deputy Fire Chief Clyde Ross.

Larry Lord, a maintenance worker at the facility on Farmington Falls Road, was also injured. The 60-year-old was flown to Mass General Hospital in Boston.

McCausland said the fire marshal's office is working with Farmington's police and fire departments. Investigators will join federal agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to process the scene Tuesday. They'll work to pinpoint the source of the explosion, which is believed to be gas-related.

Firefighters had been called to the building along Route 2 at 8:07 a.m. for a propane smell in the building. The explosion took place minutes later.

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Following Monday's events, two churches opened their doors to provide a quiet sanctuary for anyone looking for one. There wasn't an empty seat at the candlelight vigil held at the Old South First Congregational Church. Dozens of community members poured in to reflect and pray for all those involved.

As the organ played, you could hear everyone humming to "Amazing Grace" and see a community consoling one another. Whether it be with a look of remorse yet understanding, or a hug that says "everything is going to be alright." Many said they were still trying to wrap their heads around what happened.

"Too many bad things happened to too many good people," one community member said.

Students from the University of Maine at Farmington were also in attendance. Many of them were in class when the explosion happened. They said what makes this harder for them, is knowing how great things this business did for people in need. They say it doesn’t matter whether they knew those involved or not, their community stands together in times of need, and there was no question about them attending the vigil.

"That's Farmington, it's a small community... everyone's always there for each other," one student said.

"I think surrounding towns are coming as well," another said. "All the support from everyone is great."

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