A firefighter was killed and seven other people were injured after what authorities believe was a gas explosion that leveled a building in Farmington, Maine. The Farmington Fire Department responded to calls about a gas smell at the administrative building for Life Enrichment Advancing People (LEAP), which had recently undergone renovations to expand.
As the firefighters were investigating the smell, the building exploded, decimating the structure and causing damage to nearby homes. Four other firefighters, a LEAP employee and a Northstar Ambulance employee were injured. The extent of their injuries is not known.
Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols told CNN that the blast scene reminded him of his time stationed in Iraq.
"It was just total devastation. I've never seen destruction like that in my career," Nichols said. "I've been in law enforcement 35 years, I've never seen anything like this before in my life, except overseas. It was horrible."
The incident could have been worse as witnesses say a group of students was waiting for their bus in front of the building just minutes before the explosion.
Another resident who lived nearby felt the explosion while he was sleeping and rushed to the scene to check on his sister who lives nearby.
"The scene was very ominous," Jacob Gage said. "There was still insulation falling from the sky like a gentle snow, and first responders were running around trying to administer first aid and locate the missing chief."
Officials called the explosion an "unfortunate, tragic accident" after a preliminary investigation showed a propane or natural gas leak likely caused it.