Dozens of homes on fire in MA after series of gas leaks
14 September, 2018, 18:09 | Author: Wade Massey
Eighteen-year-old Leonel Rondon was killed inside a auto in Lawrence when a chimney fell on his vehicle from a house explosion, a spokeswoman with the Essex County District Attorney's office said. Police were out overnight and again Friday morning patrolling neighborhoods to look for looters and any other activity related to the evacuations and explosions.
More than 70 gas explosions sparked blazes across three communities as crews scrambled to douse the flames and shut off gas and electric lines to prevent further damage.
Columbia Gas had announced earlier in the day it would be upgrading gas lines in neighbourhoods across MA, including the area where the explosions happened. Authorities are evacuating residents from parts of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.
Dozens of homes were reported to have caught fire in several northern MA towns on Thursday after a series of suspected gas explosions. "Make plans for at least between now and this time tomorrow", Rivera said early Friday.
Merrimack College, a private Catholic school in North Andover, instructed its staff and students to evacuate "immediately".
Even though there was no immediate report on the case of the fire, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency blamed the gas lines that had become over-pressurized.
Lawrence General Hospital said it was treating 10 victims, including at least one in critical condition.
Andover Police sent out an automated phone call telling residents to evacuate their homes and turn off the gas, and North Andover Police told residents and businesses with gas service to exit their buildings until further notice.
Late on Thursday Lawrence resident Bruce Razin was among the evacuees standing outside the Colonial Heights neighbourhood near the city's high school trying to decide what to do next.
State Police say they have confirmed fires at 39 locations but warn the number will grow.
"Columbia Gas is investigating what happened on its system today", NiSource spokesman Ken Stammen said.
A gas explosion destroyed this home in Lawrence, Sept. 13, 2018.
Andover Town Manager Andrew P. Flanagan, Police Chief Patrick E. Keefe and Fire Chief Michael Mansfield said Andover fire responders had put out a total of 35 fires. More than 50 fire vehicles and 10 ambulances responded. Just a few streets down, he said, homes were burning.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said in a statement he was "actively monitoring the situation", urging "residents to heed instructions from local officials".
The three communities house more than 146,000 residents about 26 miles north of Boston, near the New Hampshire border.
"Residents in the affected towns of Lawrence/North Andover/Andover who have gas service from Columbia Gas should evacuate their homes immediately if they have not already done so", state police tweeted.
Warren and Seaman said the last time they responded to MA for a major blaze was the Malden Mills factory fire in Lawrence in 1995.
Local leaders say Columbia Gas crews are out working on homes, but no representative for the company was available to answer questions at news conferences throughout the day.
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