The family of the Farmington, Maine, fire captain who was killed in a gas explosion last week held a private funeral, but will host a public tribute once his injured comrades are ready to attend, according to the Bell family.
Fire Captain Michael Bell, 68, died Sept. 16 when firefighters responded to a gas odor at LEAP Inc. — an organization that helps people with developmental disabilities — and the building exploded, Farmington officials said. Six other firefighters and one civilian were injured in the blast.
Bell’s family held a private funeral per his wishes, according to his obituary from the Wiles Remembrance Centers. They will later host a private graveside service for family and friends.
Maine officials will hold a public ceremony at a later date “once all of the injured have returned home and are able to participate,” his family said in a public letter.
“While we’ve chosen to mourn privately, we also recognize the need for others to honor him, and the other victims, to begin healing from the tragedy that has occurred,” the letter said.
Bell was born and raised in Maine, the obituary said. He was a plumber who also worked for the Farmington Fire Department for 30 years. He enjoyed the outdoors and home improvement projects.
In the letter, Bell’s family thanked town officials, relatives, and the people who helped bring his body home.
“It provides a bit of solace knowing that he died doing something that was so important to him. He was our hero, not because of how he died, but because of the way he lived his life every day,” the letter said.
Bell is survived by his wife of 48 years, Diana Tracy, as well as three brothers, a sister, three daughters, and four grandsons.
Three of the six injured firefighters have been released from the hospital, according to a website with Farmington updates from Maine State Police. Captain Timothy Hardy, 40, was released Thursday from Maine Medical Center in Portland, and Firefighter Joseph Hastings, 24, was released Wednesday. Deputy Fire Chief Clyde Ross was released the day of the blast.
Fire Chief Terry Bell, 62, and Captain Scott Baxter, 37, remained in critical condition as of Sunday afternoon, according to the Maine Medical Center. Firefighter Theodore Baxter, 64, was upgraded to fair condition.
Larry Lord, 60, a maintenance worker at the facility who was injured in the explosion, is expected to remain at Massachusetts General Hospital for months. He is making “positive strides,” according to his GoFundMe page, which has raised over $100,000 for his family.