Wooden Stars of HOPE USA hang from the Welcome to Farmington sign at Bjorn Memorial Park as James Colford, left, and Michael Karcher, employees of ServPro of Augusta, volunteer their time Tuesday to clean up the park across from the explosion site on Farmington Falls Road in Farmington. Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal

FARMINGTON — The site of last week’s deadly explosion at the LEAP central office on Farmington Falls Road is under investigation by New England Fire Cause and Origin, which works with insurance companies.

A chain-link fence surrounds the outer perimeter of the site, with yellow tape just inside it and signs indicating the site is under investigation.

Symbols of hope have been hung in front of the site, across the street at Bjorn Memorial Park, and at the Fire Rescue Department and the Police Department.

The explosion claimed the life of Fire Rescue Capt. Michael A. Bell, 68, and seriously injured six other firefighters and a LEAP maintenance supervisor on Sept. 16. Four firefighters have been released from hospitals.

Fire Chief Terry Bell remained in fair condition and Capt. Scott Baxter remained in serious condition Tuesday at Maine Medical Center in Portland, according to a spokeswoman.

Maintenance supervisor Larry Lord remained in critical condition at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, according a hospital spokeswoman.

State fire investigators continue their investigation off-site into the origin and cause of the explosion.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is awaiting analysis of air samples taken over the weekend.

The day of the explosion, DEP staff took air samples and ran some tests, DEP spokesman David Madore said Tuesday.

“They came back at normal background levels,” he said.

As a precautionary measure, the DEP elected to put in two temporary monitors directly across the street from the site at the park, he said.

These monitors are running 24 hours a day.

“We ran samples through the weekend and those results are being analyzed with results expected Wednesday afternoon,” Madore said.

Wooden Stars of HOPE hang from the mailbox in front of the demolished LEAP central office in Farmington. Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal

The DEP continues to monitor the site to make sure there is no health, safety or environmental effect on the community, he said.

Some of what is being done is extra precautionary.

Particles raked up in the cleanup of the park would be captured on the monitors, Madore said.

“As of right now, we have no reason for concerns based on the testing we have done,” he said. There has been no change in the air analysis and there are no concerns about an effect on groundwater.

“We have no reason to believe groundwater has been impacted at the site of the explosion,” he said.

Employees of ServPro of Augusta and ServPro of Bangor volunteered their time Tuesday to clean Bjorn park of debris.


Jeff Parness, founder and executive director of New York Says Thank You, Stars of HOPE USA Program, drove from New York to Farmington on Friday night to hang hand-painted stars Saturday. Two young women from a local church saw that he had a stack of stars and asked if they could help him.

Wooden stars were hung from the Welcome to Farmington sign in the park. There is also a U.S. flag flanked by pots of chrysanthemums with a green painted star with pink lettering with the word “Endure” on it, leaning against a stake holding the flag.

Wooden Stars of HOPE hang from the signpost at the LEAP offices at 313 Farmington Falls Road in Farmington. A propane explosion at the facility Sept. 16 killed a Farmington firefighter and seriously injured six firefighters and a LEAP maintenance supervisor. Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal

Parness’ business partner and good friend was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York. His 5-year-old son had the idea of doing something for people in California connected to the wildfires there in 2003. His son wanted to send toys to children out West.  Soon after, Parness was driving to San Diego in a truck with with the words “New York Says Thank You” on the side and filled with supplies loaded by hundreds of volunteers.

Some of the stars were painted by visitors to the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York. Others were painted by schoolchildren. According to the Stars of HOPE USA website, it is the world’s largest and fastest-growing healing arts program.

The stars serve as beacons of compassion for all to see and have made a direct impact on the long-term mental health and resiliency of individuals and entire communities recovering from disaster, according to Parness.

When people see the stars every day, they will remember they are not alone, he said.

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