Dr. Fred White, disaster mental health co-leader for the American Red Cross in Maine, speaks during Community Night at Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington on Thursday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

FARMINGTON — LEAP Inc. hosted an informal evening of support for community members Thursday at Franklin Memorial Hospital, helping those coping with the stress and emotions from last month’s deadly propane explosion at the nonprofit social service agency’s central offices.

“The best part of tonight is you get to say what you think,” said Matt McDade, American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health co-leader for Maine.

American Red Cross volunteers, members of the Maine Center for Disease Control Disaster Behavioral Health Response Team, and the Medical Reserve Corps were on hand to offer assistance. About a dozen community members attended.

“This community is one month and one day out,” said Dr. Fred White, American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health co-leader for Maine. “All disasters start and end locally. Monday morning, Sept. 16 … you know the story, I don’t have to go into detail. When the first problem was detected, that was the local start point of that disaster.

“Quickly, 911 was summoned for more help,” he said. “Help came. It was realized more help was needed and the call went out more broadly. It went beyond local, beyond Farmington. Now it’s the county and the state.

“How long does it take before it ends locally? We don’t know. Certainly, it has not ended yet,” he said.

Disaster response happens when local resources are swamped, he said. Part of that response is connecting people with access to available services.

Representatives from Tri-County Mental Health Services and the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area were available to help make those connections.

White said there were five phases to disaster response: prior planning and preparation; mitigation or taking measures to minimize impact; offering emergency relief through response; recovery; and, finally, evaluating what worked and what did not work.

“Recovery is about where this community is now,” he said. “And, recovery can take a long time. I am looking at your faces, looking at your eyes and I feel your feelings. I don’t feel exactly what you are feeling but, man, this is a powerful experience.”

Attendees were given the opportunity to talk privately among themselves or with a clinician.

“This is an opportunity for anyone to come to a safe environment and either listen or participate at their own comfort level,” said Sarah Judd, human resources director for LEAP. Judd coordinated the no-cost event.

There have been no new developments into how the propane line under the LEAP parking lot was damaged, resulting in the fuel eventually entering the basement of the building, or what caused the fumes there to explode.

The propane tank had been filled with nearly 400 gallons on Sept. 13 by CN Brown of Paris, but was empty when LEAP maintenance supervisor Larry Lord checked it three days later and smelled propane in the basement, according to investigators.

Lord got employees from the building prior to calling 911.

It exploded minutes after firefighters arrived, killing Farmington Fire Rescue Capt. Michael Bell, and seriously or critically injuring six other firefighters and Lord.

Lord was listed in serious condition Thursday at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Capt. Scott Baxter was released from Maine Medical Center in Portland on Sunday and discharged to a rehabilitation facility.

The other five firefighters have been released from hospitals.

Thirty people living in a mobile home park behind the LEAP building were displaced in the explosion. They have all been relocated.


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