Gas-related explosions set fire to homes near Boston

April FrancisSep 15, 2018

Some 8,000 people were driven from their homes in the Boston suburbs by a series of gas explosions, and it was unclear on Friday when they could go back.

Eighteen-year-old Leonel Rondon died when his auto was crushed by a falling chimney, a spokeswoman for the Essex County District Attorney's office said.

"It looked like Armageddon", Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield reportedly said. "There were billows of smoke coming from Lawrence behind me. I could see pillars of smoke in front of me from the town of Andover", he told reporters.

"There's a lot more work that's left to be done", Gov. Baker said. "There will be plenty of time later tonight, tomorrow morning and into the next day to do some of the work around determining exactly what happened and why".

A worker with Columbia Gas pries the manhole cover open as they work to insure there are no gas leaks at the corner of Parker and Salem Street in Lawrence, Mass., Friday, Sept. 14, 2018.

Columbia Gas also said it's working with officials to "investigate this incident in order to understand its cause".

"At this time, the focus remains on ensuring the public safety", Mr Baker said. Lawrence resident Ra Nam told CNN affiliate WCVB that a boiler in his house caught fire.

Baker authorized the utility Eversource to take management control over the effort to restore services.

Columbia Gas CEO Steve Bryant said the company was "sorry" and "deeply concerned about the inconvenience", adding that he has no reason to take action against any employee at this point.

"The issue is there could still be a gas leak in your home, and the danger is that it's an invisible thing", Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera said Thursday night. Some 400 people spent the night in shelters, and school was cancelled Friday as families waited to return to their homes.

Lawrence resident Bruce Razin was among the evacuees standing outside the Colonial Heights neighborhood near the city's high school trying to decide what to do next late Thursday.

About 4:19 p.m., a voice on the fire and EMS channel said there were reports of fires at 19 Robinson Court and 98 Mifflin Drive, both apparently in North Andover, "all reporting a strong odor of gas".

"Columbia Gas has not said what went wrong", Thys reported Friday.

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Homes in three towns north of Boston went up in flames on Thursday, consumed by more than 60 suspected gas fires.

A man whose neighbourhood was among dozens that erupted in fire says he ran into his basement to find that the room was glowing.

Lawrence General Hospital stated that they had received a total of 13 patients as a result of the gas fires in Lawrence, with one patient said to be in critical condition.

Authorities said Thursday that fires and explosions that broke out in 70 locations in northern MA may have been caused by gas pressure.

Earlier on Thursday, before the fires broke out, the utility company that services the area announced it would be upgrading natural gas lines in neighborhoods across the state. It was not clear whether work was happening there Thursday, and a spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.

Just a few streets down, he said, homes were burning.

State police say a joint investigation will be conducted when the situation is stabilized.

One person was killed Thursday as dozens of house fires burned in MA after reports of issues with the natural gas system.

Aerial footage of the area showed some homes that appeared to be torn apart by blasts.

Lawrence Councilor Marc Laplante said residents of South Lawrence also are being evacuated. Initially, officials had said three people were injured. "It's really hard because the traffic right now is horrendous".

Joseph Solomon, the police chief in nearby Methuen, said 20 to 25 homes were on fire in Lawrence when he responded to help. He said there are so many fires "you can't even see the sky". The three communities, near the New Hampshire border, together have more than 146,000 residents. Lawrence, the largest of them, is a majority Latino city with a population of about 80,000. "We will get units out there".

Just spoke with @SenWarren and @SenMarkey about the explosions and fires in #Lawrence, #Andover and #NorthAndover.

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