Maine fire captain dies while battling blaze, US
A fire fighter died on Friday, 1 March 2019, after succumbing to injuries he sustained while battling an apartment blaze, according to officials. Maine Public reported that Berwick Fire Department Captain Joel Barnes was helping battle a multi-alarm apartment fire and was on the third floor with another fire fighter when they were met with a wall of flames, according to Maine Public Safety spokesperson Steve McCausland. "Both men had to be rescued by other fire fighters," McCausland said. Barnes and four other injured fire fighters were transported to the hospital, where Barnes later died.
"In addition to the second man down on the third floor there were three other fire fighters that were injured. All four of those injured fire fighters have now been treated and released."
The death of Berwick Fire Captain Joel Barnes is having a big impact on fire fighters throughout the state. The fire service is a very tight knit community and while the members of the Berwick Fire Department continue to mourn the loss of Captain Barnes, it's other departments across Maine and New Hampshire that are helping them get through it.
It's hard to put into words what losing a friend, colleague or brother means to the fire service. "We work with these people day in and day out and they really are our extended family and when there's a loss like this, it reverberates through the entire fire department family," South Portland Fire Department Deputy Chief Phil Selberg said.
After the passing of Captain Joel Barnes, that family came out in full force, with trained peer support officers who will work with fire fighters in Berwick, now coping with the unimaginable. "It tries to bridge that gap, so people are comfortable seeking help if they need help and providing avenues for people to get clinical care if they need to," Selberg said.
With fire fighters and law enforcement seeing higher rates of PTSD, counsellors say tragedies like the loss of Barnes can have a dire impact but they want every fire fighter to know that help is out there. "Years ago, it was just part of the job that you had to deal with it and now we know that's not the case. We're human just like everyone else and sometimes we need help, too," Selberg said.
Fellow fire fighters continue to hold a 24-hour vigil over Captain Barnes' body in Old Orchard Beach.