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1 firefighter killed, 4 others hurt battling southern Maine blaze

Residents of a three-story apartment building in Berwick, Maine, watched Friday as their home went up in flames.
Residents of a three-story apartment building in Berwick, Maine, watched Friday as their home went up in flames.(Deb Cram/Foster's Daily Democrat/AP)

A firefighter in Berwick, Maine, was killed and four were others injured Friday while battling a four-alarm blaze at a 3-story apartment building, authorities said.

Captain Joel Barnes died from injuries suffered in the fire that broke around 11 a.m. at the property at 10 Bell St. in the small town on the New Hampshire border.

“Obviously, you can see that this was a difficult situation for all of the fire departments that responded to this event,” Maine Fire Marshal Joseph Thomas told reporters at the scene. “I tip my hat to every single one of them for the work that they put into saving their own, trying to make as much progress as possible, saving any lives of the public who lived there.”

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The fire drew assistance from 17 area fire departments, including 10 from New Hampshire, said Tim Wilder, assistant fire chief in Rochester, N.H.

“Like anyone in the fire service, their heart is into it. This is what they do. This is probably the worst thing we can ever do or go through in our careers — something certainly none of us want to do,” Wilder told reporters, adding he had met Barnes.

Barnes was one of two firefighters who encountered a wall of flames on the third floor and had to be rescued, said Maine Public Safety Spokesman Steve McCausland.

Fire officials were dispatched to the address for a report of smoke in the building, Wilder said. A mayday was declared minutes after the first firefighters arrived.

“Though this is what we do all the time, for every one of us in the fire service, when we lose one of our own, it’s a difficult time,” Thomas said.

The cause and origin of the fire were under investigation Friday, officials said.

The state fire marshal offices from New Hampshire and Maine; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the Berwick police and fire departments are investigating the fire.

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Barnes was one of just five firefighters on the Berwick force, and officials turned to social media to express their condolences.

Maine Governor Janet Mills offered condolences in a tweet early Friday evening.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the family, colleagues, and friends of Berwick firefighter Capt. Joel Barnes, who lost his life fighting a four-alarm fire today,” Mills wrote. “Joel will be forever remembered for his courage and service to our state.”


Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Alejandro Serrano can be reached at alejandro.serrano@globe.com.