On a cold and snowy Sunday, thousands of people from Maine, around the country, and the world, gathered in Portland to honor Captain Joel Barnes of the Berwick Fire Department.
The 32-year-old firefighter, a member of Local 340, died on March 1 while fighting an apartment blaze. He was remembered for his kind heart and heroic actions, having died shielding a fellow firefighter from the flames.
More than 2,500 people, many of them fellow firefighters, lined the street in front of the memorial to pay their respects and celebrate the life of Capt. Barnes, surrounded by Teamster tractor trailers there in solidarity. Barnes was one of three bargaining unit members at the Berwick Fire Department in Maine and an active Teamster member. He was a member of the Teamsters negotiating committee.
“Capt. Barnes was a true hero. His dedication, service and sacrifice to his craft are unquestionable. He was the best example of a Teamster, helping and protecting others,” said Brett Miller, President of Local 340 in South Portland, Maine.
“Capt. Barnes was dedicated to his profession and to helping other people. Listening to everyone at the service talk about how he touched their lives, that same theme rang through,” said Traci St. Clair, business agent for Barnes and the Berwick bargaining unit.
This was the first firefighter fatality in the state in decades. Local 340 representatives helped organize the service, working alongside other firefighter unions, fire departments and other public employers.
Lt. Joe Carroll, a member of Local 340 with the Westbrook Fire Department, helped coordinate the service.
At the memorial, Jon Keenan, also a Teamster firefighter with the Westbrook Fire Department, joined Miller in presenting Barnes’s family with the Medal of Valor. The medal is given for heroic action above and beyond the call of duty that is at extreme personal risk and instrumental in rescuing and saving another’s life.
A “last call” was sounded at the service, a poignant moment in memoriam of a firefighter lost in the line of duty. The radio dispatcher called out for Barnes three times, then thanked him for his service, leadership and friendship.