Governor Janet Mills has ordered all United States and Maine flags to be flown at half-staff on Wednesday, in recognition of the one-year anniversary of a devastating explosion in Farmington.

I remember the morning of September 15th, 2019, when I noticed a quick blurb on Twitter about an explosion in Farmington. The newsperson in me went to work, digging for information. I knew there was a building involved, but didn't realize the scope of the devastation until I started seeing pictures. Where the LEAP, Incorporated building had once stood, there was now only a huge pile of debris.

Submitted photo
Submitted photo

Later, we would find out that firefighters were on scene, having been called by maintenance supervisor Larry Lord. He had evacuated the building after noticing a propane smell and realizing that, despite a delivery of propane over the weekend, the gauges were not showing the tanks to be full. As Lord and several firefighters investigated, the building exploded.

Captain Michael Bell, of the Farmington Fire Department, perished in the blast. Larry Lord was so severely injured that he spent the next many months in hospitals and rehab facilities, finally returning home in April. Five other firefighters were also injured, and were treated at area hospitals, some for more than a month.

The investigation into the explosion would reveal that one of the gas lines, which ran under the parking lot, had been accidentally severed by one of four bollards that had recently been installed. The propane that had been pumped into the fill pipe never reached the tank, but pooled under the parking lot and building.

Wednesday morning at 8:18, a moment of silence at a memorial service recognized the exact time of the explosion. That ceremony was followed by a solemn parade by the memorial placed at the site of the blast. Participants were asked to stay in their vehicles.

Our thoughts are with the residents of Farmington, and the family and friends of everyone involved.

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