A flag that was flown during a mission in the Middle East is displayed in Bjorn Memorial Park on Farmington Falls Road in Farmington in honor of the late Capt. Michael Bell of the Farmington Fire Rescue Department and those injured in a massive explosion at the LEAP Inc. building Sept. 16. Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal

FARMINGTON — The Maine Department of Transportation has made license plates for members of the Farmington Fire Rescue Department and signs in honor of Capt. Michael Bell, who was killed in a massive explosion last week at the LEAP central office at 313 Farmington Falls Road.

The red-and-white vehicle plates are emblazoned with “Farmington Fire Dept.” at the top and “Capt. Michael Bell’ at the bottom with his line of duty death date, Sept. 16, 2019. In large print in the center is “C-4,” indicating he was fourth in command, flanked by Department emblems.

Maine Department of Transportation photo

Back-to-back signs, 4 feet by 8 feet in red and white, were delivered Wednesday, according to DOT spokesman Paul Merrill. They will be erected by the town.

They read “Farmington Strong! In memorium of ‘Captain Michael Bell’ LODD 1950-2019.” The latter stands for line of duty death in the fire service.

In another tribute to Bell and all the other first responders to the Sept. 16 blast, a flag that was first flown over a decade ago on a mission in the Middle East by CW3 Michael Brookins is set up across the street from the disaster site on the lawn of Bjorn Memorial Park. A plastic encased letter is attached and includes the Fireman’s Prayer.

So far, the costs of the signs and plates have been covered by Maine State Police and Maine DOT, according to Merrill.


Six other firefighters and LEAP’s maintenance supervisor were seriously injured after responding to a report of the smell of propane at about 8:07 a.m. at LEAP’s office. Soon after firefighters arrived, the building exploded.

Capt. Scott Baxter remains in serious condition, while Chief Terry Bell, Capt. Bell’s brother, remains in fair condition at Maine Medical Center in Portland, according a hospital spokeswoman Wednesday. Maintenance supervisor Larry Lord of Jay remains in critical condition at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, according to spokeswoman there.

Fire Deputy Chief S. Clyde Ross, Capt. Tim “TD” Hardy and firefighters Joseph Hastings and Theodore “Ted” Baxter, Capt. Baxter’s father, have been released from hospitals.

In addition to the loss of the LEAP building, 11 mobile homes behind the facility were destroyed and 30 people displaced.


The Leap Explosion Fund is approaching $100,000, Lisa Laflin, executive director of the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area, said Wednesday. A committee of town officials, emergency management agency staff, police, businesspersons and LEAP representatives, among others, will decide on the disbursement for short-term and long-term needs.

The fund will support displaced residents who have been identified by the AmericanRed Cross and Franklin County Emergency Management Agency; firefighters and their families, and LEAP employees.

Other ways to donate can be found on the town of Farmington website: farmington-maine.org.

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