RLRS Student Body President Toni Almeraz addresses the student body while local first responders gather behind her. Submitted photo

Rangeley Lakes School Staff, Officers, Agents, Deputies, Fire Fighters and EMT’s after the ceremony honoring fallen hero Captain Michael Bell and area first responders. Submitted photo

RANGELEY — Rangeley Lakes Regional School’s Student Body President Toni Almeraz is no stranger to the daily sacrifices made by first responders. Almeraz, the daughter of local Border Patrol agents, organized a school assembly to honor fallen Farmington Fire Captain Michael Bell and other first responders on October 18, 2019.

In the wake of the September 16, 2019 gas explosion that shook the town of Farmington, Maine and took the life of Captain Bell, Almeraz wanted to honor Captain Bell as well as all area first responders. With permission from Rangeley Lakes School Principal Georgia Campbell, Almeraz cordially invited area first responders to gather for a ceremony at the Rangeley Lakes gymnasium.

On Friday October 18, Deputy Chief Clyde Ross and fire fighters from the Farmington Fire Department were joined by representatives from the United States Border Patrol’s Rangeley Station, the Coburn Gore Port of Entry, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Rangeley Police Department, the Rangeley Fire Department, and North Star EMT’s to honor fallen Farmington Fire Fighter Captain Michael Bell and area first responders.

“These men and women are heroes and I want them to know we, as a school and a community, support and appreciate what they do and sacrifice for us,” said Student Body President Toni Almeraz

Fire trucks, ambulances, and patrol units filled the school parking lot as the Rangeley Lakes Student Body filled the gymnasium. Students wore shirts and hats representing local departments as well as cut out badges and emblems representing local emergency response agencies.

Almeraz welcomed each agency before the Rangeley Lakes Choir performed the national anthem. After a moment of silence to honor Captain Bell, Almeraz invited Student Council President Lauren Eastlack to present the Farmington Fire Department with a RangeleyLakes Regional School flag signed by each student and area first responders. The student body then joined Almeraz in honoring and thanking each first responder and their department.

At the culmination of the ceremony all first responders were invited to attend a reception where students served cake donated by local residents. Almeraz presented each agency with a gift bag to share with fellow first responders within their perspective stations.

Public service is way of life for Almeraz and her family. Her parents are not only Border Patrol agents,but are also volunteer fire fighters in Rangeley. Her grandfather is a retired fire fighter from El Paso, while her uncle Ernesto Serna was tragically gunned down in the line of duty while working for the El Paso Police Department in 1991.

Almeraz, 17, trained for three years as a United States Border Patrol Explorer in Rio Grande City Texas, before moving to Rangeley with her parents last year. She has continued her training by joining Houlton Explorer Post 1820, making her the first and only Border Patrol Explorer from Rangeley. As an Explorer, she has assisted agents and attended community events in Rangeley and throughout the State of Maine. Almeraz plans to serve her country by enlisting in the United States Coast Guard upon graduation from high school and hopes to eventually follow her parents to become a Border Patrol agent.

“These men and women do so much for our communities. Every day they leave their homes and families not knowing if they will return as we saw with Captain Bell,” said Almeraz.

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