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Family of Farmington fire captain killed in explosion thanks community

Funeral services for Capt. Michael Bell will be private, but a public tribute will take place after injured firefighters can participate.

FARMINGTON, Maine — A funeral service for Farmington Fire Rescue Capt. Michael Bell, who died Sept. 16 when a building exploded in the community, will be private at the family's request, but a public tribute will take place in the future, Bell's daughters wrote in a letter provided Saturday to News Center Maine by the Farmington Fire Department.

"Our family is rather private, so it's been challenging for us to navigate our father's passing because he lost his life in such a tragic, public way," Bell's daughters, Michelle Fish, Danielle Flannery and Sara Bell, wrote. "He was a very humble man, so in keeping with his wishes, our family plans to mourn him privately. That is what our hearts are guiding us to do."

But Bell's family recognizes the need for others to honor him and others injured in the explosion -- among them, seven other firefighters.

According to the letter, the Farmington Fire Department, the Maine State Police Honor Guard and IMAC teams and the Fire Chiefs LAST response team will organize a public tribute event once those injured in the blast are able to participate.

Bell's daughters wrote that the family was "amazed at the public outpouring of support and were comforted by what we saw," mentioning, among others, the honor guard that stood watch over Bell's casket, the firefighters and police officers who escorted the family home, "the K9 officers perched on a cliff overlooking the motorcade, the solo bagpiper in Belgrade Lakes," and those who lined the streets on Tuesday during Bell's procession.

Seven firefighters and a maintenance worker praised as a hero were also injured in the blast.

On Friday, LEAP maintenance worker Larry Lord, 60, was upgraded from critical to serious condition at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Leap remained in serious condition on Saturday, according to the hospital.

Capt. Scott Baxter remained in critical condition at Maine Medical Center on Saturday. His family told public information officials Thursday that he was improving daily.

Firefighter Theodore "Ted" Baxter's condition was upgraded from serious to fair Friday, and remained in fair condition Saturday afternoon.

Fire Chief Terry Bell remained in critical condition Saturday. His brother, Capt. Michael Bell, died in Monday's explosion.

Deputy Fire Chief Clyde Ross, Capt. Timothy "TD" Hardy and firefighter Joseph Hastings were discharged from Maine Medical Center this week.

Bell's daughters said his family offers their "love and support" to those injured or displaced and their families, adding, "Please pray for them all. Their road to physical and emotional recovery will be long and they need our support."

The state fire marshal's office continues to investigate the explosion at the LEAP, Inc., headquarters. Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said Friday that fire investigators completed on-scene work at the site on Thursday and turned the property over to its owners and their insurance company.

Fire investigators will conduct additional interviews and analysis of items gathered at the scene as they attempt to determine what caused the blast.