FARMINGTON — Fire Rescue Chief Terry Bell was escorted home from a Portland hospital late Tuesday afternoon, more than three weeks after being critically injured in a propane gas explosion that killed his brother.

Bell, 63, was driven from Maine Medical Center in a car bearing a license plate in memory of his brother, Capt. Michael Bell, 68.

The Portland escort included members of the Portland Fire Department, police and area fire departments.

When Bell arrived in Farmington just before 6 p.m., a procession of firetrucks from Franklin, Oxford, Androscoggin and Somerset counties, and police cruisers and ambulances formed an escort along Route 27 to the fire station where dozens lined up to salute the veteran firefighter of 40-plus years. He’s been chief for 19 years.

As his car was surrounded by Farmington firetrucks to block the view from the public, people could be seen clapping near the station.

Bell was injured Sept. 16 when LEAP Inc.’s central office at 313 Farmington Falls Road exploded following a propane leak.

David Hawkes of Farmington holds a flag with a red line through it as he awaits the arrival of Fire Rescue Chief Terry Bell on Tuesday evening across from the fire station. Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal

Five other firefighters and LEAP’s maintenance supervisor, Larry Lord, 61 of Jay were either seriously or critically injured. Capt. Scott Baxter, 37, was listed in fair condition at Maine Medical Center as of Monday, while Lord remained in critical condition Tuesday at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Deputy Chief S. Clyde Ross, 82, Capt. Tim “TD” Hardy, 40, and firefighters Joseph Hastings and Capt. Baxter’s father, Theodore “Ted” Baxter, 64, have been released from hospitals.

When Capt. Bell’s body was brought back to Farmington on Sept. 17 from the Office of Chief Medical Examiner, people lined the streets, many holding small U.S. flags. The University of Maine of Farmington canceled morning classes and businesses closed for the procession.

People also lined the streets when Hardy, Hastings and Ted Baxter were each escorted home.

Red ribbons hang at downtown businesses, light poles and other places, and people have been wearing red ribbons or red clothing on Fridays to symbolize “Farmington Strong.”

Lord, after getting nearly a dozen employees out of the LEAP office building, reported a smell of propane and minutes after firefighters arrived it exploded.

State fire investigators said they located a leak in the propane line buried under the LEAP’s paved parking lot. The line went from an outside propane tank at the rear of the property, under the parking lot and into the basement of the building. The 400-gallon tank was filled three days before the explosion, but it was empty Sept. 16 when Lord and another employee checked it, according to investigators.

The cause of the leak and what sparked the explosion remain under investigation.

Investigators said Lord was in the basement with Capt. Tim “TD” Hardy, Joseph Hastings and Capt. Baxter when the explosion happened. Capt. Michael Bell was on the first floor, Chief Bell was near the rear door of the building, and Deputy Fire Chief Ross and firefighter Ted Baxter were in the parking lot.

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