'Total devastation': 1 firefighter dead, 6 people hurt in powerful explosion in Maine

WMTW(FARMINGTON, Maine) — One firefighter is dead and six people are injured after a powerful explosion at a building in Maine Monday morning, according to officials.

Those hurt were Farmington Fire Chief Terry Bell, three full-time firefighters, a building employee and an ambulance worker, said Farmington police chief Jack Peck. Most suffered burn injuries, he said.

The cause of the explosion in Farmington is believed to be an accidental propane or natural gas leak, said Peck.

The building — the central office for LEAP, a program that supports homes for developmentally disabled people — was totally demolished, said Rep. Scott Landry

An employee in the building had smelled propane and evacuated workers before it exploded, Landry said.

Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols was one of the first responders and helped moved people away from the scene, according to the police chief.

“I spent a year in Iraq, it’s about the closest I can explain it. Total devastation,” Nichols said. “I’ve never seen destruction like that in my career… It was horrible.”

“It just looked like a snowstorm, all this insulation that was coming up,” neighbor Steve Burnham told ABC Portland affiliate WMTW. “It was crazy. Just like a war zone.”

Residents in the adjoining town said they felt the powerful blast, said the police chief.

The conditions of those injured were not immediately clear.

Officials with Maine Medical Center said in a statement that the center “is anticipating the transfer of several patients from the Farmington incident to our Emergency Department. We have trauma teams on standby.”

Residents who live in the area appear to be fine but shaken, said the sheriff.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office will investigate the cause and origin of the blast, said Maine Gov. Janet Mills, who visited the explosion site.

“Our hearts go out to all those impacted by this tragedy, especially to the loved ones of the firefighter lost and others injured,” Mills tweeted. “I am grateful for the work of first responders who are at the scene and urge Maine people to avoid the area.”

The governor has directed flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of the fallen firefighter.

“Our hearts go out to anyone injured or impacted today,” said officials with LEAP.

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