Capt. Michael Bell, who died during last week’s massive explosion in Farmington, was a humble and private man, his family said.

Capt. Michael Bell died last week in an explosion after responding to a reported gas leak at the LEAP building in Farmington. Photo courtesy town of Farmington

To honor those qualities, the Bell family has chosen to grieve his passing out of the media spotlight that dominated the western Maine town last week.

But the family also wants to acknowledge the generosity and support it has received over the last several days.

Bell’s adult daughters, Michelle Fish, Danielle Flannery and Sara Bell, wrote in an open letter that they recognize the need for others to honor him and they are working with the Farmington Fire Department and other organizations on a public tribute sometime in the future. That won’t happen until the others who were injured in the blast have returned home and can participate.

“The fire service has been a huge part of our father’s life for the past 35 years,” they wrote. “He loved being a firefighter and it provides a bit of solace knowing that he died doing something that was so important to him.”

Last Monday, Bell and six other firefighters responded to a possible propane leak at the LEAP Inc. building on Route 2. The nonprofit agency’s maintenance manager, Larry Lord, had smelled gas earlier that morning and evacuated the 10 employees who were there prior to the firefighters’ arrival.


The two-story building exploded just before 8:30 a.m., killing Bell instantly. Four others – Lord, Farmington Fire Chief Terry Bell (Michael’s brother), Theodore Baxter and Scott Baxter – were critically injured and hospitalized.

Lord is at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He had been upgraded on Friday from critical to serious condition, but was downgraded to critical condition again Monday.

The others were taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where Scott Baxter was listed Monday in serious condition and Terry Bell was listed as having been upgraded to fair condition. Theodore Baxter was discharged. Two others – Joseph Hastings and Timothy “TD” Hardy – were also hospitalized last week but have been released.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office is still investigating the cause of the explosion.

Capt. Bell’s daughters wrote in the letter that they were touched by all the support they received as they rode in a convoy with their father’s body from the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Augusta to a local funeral home in Farmington.

“We were amazed at the public outpouring of support and were comforted by what we saw … the many firefighters and police who escorted us back home, the K9 officers perched on a cliff overlooking the motorcade, the solo bagpiper in Belgrade Lakes and the woman mounted on her horse carrying an American flag as we passed the Farmington fairgrounds,” they wrote.

In addition to three daughters and and four grandchildren, Bell is survived by his wife of 48 years, Diana Tracy.

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