BERWICK, Maine — The Town of Berwick and the firefighting community in New England and beyond are collectively in mourning today after the line of duty death of Berwick Fire & Rescue Captain Joel Barnes, who died fighting a four-alarm fire that injured four other firefighters on Friday afternoon.
Captain Barnes, age 32, was a paramedic and served as the Berwick Fire & Rescue training officer and emergency medical services coordinator. He previously worked for South Berwick Rescue, York Ambulance and the Old Orchard Beach Fire Department before joining Berwick Fire in July 2016. He was also an active per diem firefighter for Town of Acton, Maine.
Captain Barnes died in a large apartment fire on Bell Street Friday. The origin and cause of the fire remain under investigation. An initial finding indicates that Captain Barnes was leading another firefighter in an interior attack of the fire when conditions suddenly worsened.
“Captain Barnes died a hero, battling a large and dangerous building fire. He made the ultimate sacrifice for his community,” said Berwick Fire Chief Dennis Plante.
Added Berwick Town Manager Stephen G. Eldridge: “Firefighters run toward danger and into places that everyone else is running away from. Captain Barnes lost his life saving others, while we honor him, we are struck with a profound sense of grief today. On behalf of the enter Berwick community, I wish to thank everyone for their offers of support and expressions of condolence.”
Captain Barnes’ body was taken to the medical examiners office in Concord, New Hampshire. It departed the medical examiner’s office at 1:30 p.m. Saturday bound for the Tasker Funeral Home in Dover. The captain’s body was escorted by Berwick Police and Fire, with firefighters and police officers from other agencies stationed in salute over major overpasses along Rt. 4.
The procession was joined by the Dover Fire Department as it reached the city limits.
The family of Captain Barnes requests that any donations being made in his name go to the Berwick Volunteer Firefighters Association in his memory c/o Kennebunk Saving Bank, 2 School St., Berwick, ME 03901.
This is the first of several updates that will be distributed as new information becomes available. Funeral arrangements are still being finalized.