Farmington Fire Rescue Chief Timothy “TD” Hardy speaks Tuesday night during a selectmen’s meeting as he discusses a fire his department responded to in February. Also seen from left are Leah Giusti, executive assistant, and Town Manager Erica LaCroix. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

FARMINGTON — Police and Fire Rescue personnel were recognized at the selectmen meeting Tuesday for efforts undertaken Feb. 23 during a fire at 513 Holley Road.

Homeowners Mary and Doug Dunlap, who were asleep when the fire broke out, were awakened by smoke detectors. Neighbors called in the fire and then-police officer Rex Schweighofer was first on the scene. He was promoted to detective in April.

The barn, which was attached by an ell to the home, was destroyed and there was some damage to the ell. The house itself was saved.

The Dunlaps wrote a letter of thanks to Farmington Fire Rescue Chief Timothy “TD” Hardy, which was read at the meeting by Town Manager Erica LaCroix. The letter stated the Dunlaps plan to donate to a fund the department maintains to help provide smoke detectors for community members.

“We write to express our deepest thanks to you and the extraordinary crews of highly skilled, courageous, and compassionate firefighters who saved our lives and our Farmington home,” LaCroix read. “That night we awoke to the sound of multiple fire alarms located throughout our home and exited quickly by the front door, executing an established fire escape plan. As we reached the door, Farmington Police Department were banging on it and the first fire trucks had already arrived.”

The letter told of a firefighter guiding the couple to safety in one of the department’s vehicles, of witnessing efforts to save the main house, and firefighters grabbing family photos and mementos which were put in a safe place. Deputy Chief Clyde Ross and other firefighters continually checked on the Dunlaps’ wellbeing, the letter noted.

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Farmington was assisted by fire departments from Chesterville, Jay, Industry, New Sharon, New Vineyard, Strong, Temple and Wilton.

“This was a fairly involved fire,” LaCroix said.

Part of the body camera footage taken from Schweighofer that night was shown.

“We pay our taxes but we don’t always see what it is that our people do,” police Chief Kenneth Charles said. “The intensity of that fire … that was hot, you could hear it all the way from the road. You could probably feel the heat from the road.”

Charles expressed gratitude and thought it important to recognize those involved. “What you don’t see is how Schweighofer finds the residents and then escorted them,” he said. “He got the wife out then went back inside and executed a room-to-room search. The place was starting to fill up with smoke.”

That is what emergency personnel does, Charles noted.

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“It really goes to what our crews have trained, prepared for, our town has invested in,” Hardy said. “Fires like that get saved because of the time of our duty crew, having people here, the trucks rolling out.”

Adding five minutes to the roll out could have meant a very different result, Hardy estimated. “Our crews did a magnificent job that night under some pretty serious, tough conditions,” he noted. It just goes to show the time, dedication, and preparation the crews do on a daily basis to serve the citizens of this community, he said.

Mutual aid practices and partners were an important part of the outcome, Hardy said, adding there was no real water supply so a lot of tankers were hauling water.

“It just goes to show it is worth the investment that we make,” he said. Insurance is fixing the house up, it will not be torn down, he said. That benefits all of the efforts, the police department, fire department, NorthStar ambulance working as a team, Hardy added.

“Thank you,” Chair Joshua Bell said. “You don’t look for recognition, you (respond to emergencies) because it is what you do. You do a superb job, all of you. In this instance we should be proud of the departments that we have and very thankful that we have them.”

Those present from the Farmington Fire Rescue and Police departments were given a standing ovation.

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