On-Duty Death Notification & Report Comparison: Maine

By Bill Carey
23 July 2022

On 16 September 2019 Farmington Fire Rescue Captain Michael Allen Bell was killed in an explosion while investigating a gas leak at an office building.

The United Fire Administration initially listed Captain Bell’s activity type as “Scene Safety.” It was changed in 2020 “Unknown.” [1]

The NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program released the incident report on January 2022. In the report Captain Bell is shown as the Captain on Engine 2, one of the first companies on the scene. Engine 2 arrived after Tower 3. The fire chief, and the officer and a firefighter from Tower 3 were investigating the exterior and interior of the building for the gas leak. The captain and driver from Engine 2 joined the others inside the building approximately one minute before the explosion. A total of seven fire department personnel were on the scene. One gas meter was being used by a firefighter from Tower 3 [2].

The NIOSH report stated that the captain met other firefighters on Side Charlie. The group moved to Side Bravo and then inside the building. The captain and fire chief were on the first floor [3]. The Tower 3 captain, firefighter and the Engine 2 driver were in the basement. The deputy chief, who as part of the Engine 2 staffing and the Tower 3 driver were outside.

The initial listing of “Scene Safety” was not completely accurate and is understated by information from the NIOSH report about all employees having been accounted for and located at a designated area outside of the building and at the end of the parking lot [4].

The report does not state any assignment or direction given to the crew of Engine 2. There was also no information about fire department personnel involved in any tasks related to ventilation or setting up water supply and hoselines. Based on the total number of personnel on the scene it is rational to assume that all fire department personnel were involved in investigating the leak.

While not a specific activity type “Other,” as far as investigating the scene, would be the more logical listing for this data than “Unknown.”


  1. Michael Allen Bell. United States Fire Administration. Updated 9 July 2020.
  2. Captain Killed and Six Firefighters Injured at a Propane Explosion in an Office Building–Maine” NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program. Released 3 January 2022.
  3. Ibid, page 20.
  4. Ibid, page 18.

Photograph courtesy of NIOSH/Maine Office of the State Fire Marshal.

Published by Data Not Drama

Data Not Drama is writings that provide a point of critical thought about firefighter fatality data and education, line of duty deaths, and risk. The main focus is to encourage less risk aversion and better knowledge on the subject of firefighter fatalities in firefighters, fire departments, and fire service organizations.

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