A devastating four-alarm fire broke down in Berwick, Maine on Friday, leaving one fire response team member dead and four others injured.
Fortunately, none of the residents of the 1968 three-story building was injured after they were able to be evacuated.
Fire marshals from Maine headed by Joe Thompson confirmed the fire that broke down at around 11:00 AM and has killed Capt. Joel Barnes of Berwick Fire Department.
Barnes succumbed to his fatal injuries at the Wentworth-Douglas Hospital in nearby Dover, New Hampshire.
“Though this is what we do all the time,” Thomas said. “For every one of us in the fire service — when we lose one of our own, it’s a difficult time.”
The four-alarm fire on March 1 that started at 10 Bell Street took 16 fire departments from Maine and New Hampshire to put out.
In total, more than 16 fire departments from Maine and New Hampshire responded to the March 1 fire at 10 Bell St., according to Tim Wilder, assistant fire chief for the Rochester Fire Department in New Hampshire. Seven fire crews from Maine, ten from New Hampshire and multiple EMS units assisted.
The fire was first reported at about 11 a.m. at which time Berwick fire and police responded. A second alarm was called at 11:03 a.m., a third at 11:14 a.m. and a fourth and final at 11:31 a.m., convening 50-75 firefighters at the scene.
Volunteers from Red Cross has helped people who are displaced by the fire by providing them with food, a safe place to sleep in, and other essentials. Authorities also said that they are in contact with two other residents who are displaced by the fire and planned to meet with them today.
Four other firefighters in Barnes’ department were treated at Wentworth-Douglas Hospital in Dover and were subsequently released after signs of improvements were noted.
When asked if Barnes was one of the two firefighters who was trapped in the fire engulfed building was Barnes, Wilder said that a mayday call was declared only minutes into the first fire crews arriving at the scene. No further details about what happened inside the building that led to Barnes’ death was revealed.
Maine Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland told the Associated Press that Barnes was one of two firefighters who encountered a wall of flames on the third floor and had to be rescued.
During a press briefing, Barnes’ colleagues honored the bravery that the fallen firefighter committed, who heroically died saving residents from a devastating fire.
“Obviously, you can see this was a difficult situation for all of the fire departments that responded to this event,” Thomas said. “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, and saving any lives of the public who lived there.”
Wilder said he had met Barnes before and praised the brave work that led up to the Berwick paramedic’s final moments.
“Like anyone in the fire service, their heart’s into it. This is what they do. This is probably the worse thing we could ever do or go through in our careers – something certainly none of us want to do,” Wilder said. “But moving forward, we’ll handle it professionally with the courtesy of the family and friends in mind.”
Barnes was one of the town’s five career personnel members within its fire and rescue department along with fellow Capt. Travis Doiron, an EMT; firefighters Brian Roy and Kyle Lavoie, paramedic and EMT, respectively; and Chief Dennis Plante. Berwick’s personnel also consists of 22 on-call and three per diem.
According to the assistant chief of Horry County Fire Rescue in South Carolina, Barnes was a former employee and part of recruit class 26
“[Captain Barnes] was a very dedicated, passionate and knowledgeable Jake who loved the job! We are honored to have had this excellent firefighter as part of the team,” Asst. Chief Douglas Cline wrote in a post on Facebook. “RIP brother we have it from here.”
A HERO WHO ALWAYS DREAMT OF BEING A FIREMAN
Meanwhile, the family of Capt. Barnes recounted their memories with the hero as they mourn his untimely demise.
According to Michael Barnes, father of the 32-year old firefighter, his son’s last act of heroism was to shield another firefighter from a devastating wall of fire.
“They were told to set down, to hang there and wait for rescue, and he covered the other firefighter up and saved his life,” Michael Barnes said. “I met with the person that he saved. He came up, and he hugged me and said, ‘Joel saved my life today. He jumped on me.’”
Michael Barnes said his son was among a group of five firefighters who went into the building to fight the flames, and only three of them found a way to escape. Barnes and the firefighter he protected had to be pulled from the building.
Barnes was unresponsive when his colleagues removed him from the building, his father said. EMTs and others immediately began efforts to resuscitate him but were unsuccessful. He was pronounced dead at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover.
As of writing, no further details were released regarding the fire and how it started.
According to a resident, the fire started on the third-floor porch of the majority wooden builder where she tried to control by using a fire extinguisher.
Barnes’ family told reporters that it is Joel’s dream to be a firefighter since he was ten years old.
“At a very young age he would start reading about all these medical books,” Michael Barnes said. “At the time he was probably about 10. He took an interest. He wanted to be a firefighter and a paramedic, and he never wavered from it.” /apr