MULTIPLE PEOPLE HURT IN FIRES IN MASSACHUSETTS
A series of gas explosions forces entire neighborhoods to evacuate as authorities try to extinguish blazes at dozens of homes in three communities near Boston. The cause of the fires was not immediately clear.
LAWRENCE, Mass. — A series of gas explosions one official described as “Armageddon” left at least six people injured and ignited fires in at least 39 homes in three communities north of Boston on Thursday, forcing entire neighborhoods to evacuate as crews scrambled to fight the flames and turn off gas and electric lines to prevent further damage.
Massachusetts State Police urged all residents with homes serviced by Columbia Gas in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover to evacuate, snarling traffic and causing widespread confusion as residents and local officials struggled to understand what was happening.
“It looked like Armageddon, it really did,” Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield told reporters. “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.”
Gov. Charlie Baker said state and local authorities are investigating but that it could take days or weeks before they turn up answers.
“This is still very much an active scene,” he 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.”
Hours after the explosions, the utility’s parent company issued a brief statement saying its crews were still performing safety checks in the area.
“Our thoughts are with everyone affected by today’s incident,” Indiana-based NiSource said in a statement. “The first priority for our crews at the scene is to ensure the safety of our customers and the community.”
Baker previously said authorities hadn’t heard directly from Columbia Gas, but later called the company’s response “adequate.”
By late Thursday, all of the fires had been doused but many areas remained silent and dark after residents fled and after power companies cut electricity to prevent further fires.
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.
Officials had cut power in the area and the streets were pitch black, save for emergency vehicle lights. Razin said he arrived just as residents were being evacuated, and immediately saw the house two doors down was leveled from an explosion.
“I couldn’t imagine if that was my house,” said Razin. “It’s total destruction. I’d be completely devastated.”
Among the dozens of homes ignited Thursday, firefighters battle a fire in Lawrence, Mass., a suburb of Boston.
Problems with a natural gas system Thursday are blamed for destroying homes, including this one in Lawrence, Mass.