Multiple Fires And Explosions Erupt In Three Boston Suburbs After "Gas Main Meltdown"

Residents in three communities north of Boston were asked to evacuate their homes following dozens of explosions and fires following problems with the natural gas system which the local authorities described as a "gas main meltdown." Emergency crews responded to at least 70 addresses for fires, explosions or the investigation of gas odor.

Multiple people were hurt, including one firefighter in Andover, after an "issue" with a high pressure gas main affected Lawrence, North Andover and Andover.  The Massachusetts State Police said in a tweet on Thursday that residents in the affected areas who have gas service from Columbia Gas "should evacuate their homes immediately if they have not done so".

They updated the tweet to say that Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera is asking all residents of South Lawrence to evacuate their homes. "This is addition to evacuation of all Columbia Gas customers in Lawrence/Andover/North Andover," state police said. 'Utility cos shutting off several thousand meters.' 

A total of 35 fires were reported in Andover alone. All fires have been extinguished, but at peak, 18 fires were burning at the same time. At least three people have been injured in Andover, including one firefighter and at least two civilians.

Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon said there are so many fires 'you can't even see the sky'. The fires have destroyed at least 50 homes, according to reports. One home in Lawrence was blown off its foundation,' according to WCVB. A neighbor told the outlet that multiple people were inside at the time. The neighbor said he saw some of the residents in the home trying to crawl out of the debris.  

According to CBS, Massachusetts State Police said gas lines were being depressurized by the company. Power has been shut off in the three communities as a precaution.

Lawrence General Hospital was currently treating six patients from the gas explosion. Two patients are in critical condition.

Governor Charlie Baker said he was communicating with safety officials. “The administration urges residents to heed instructions from local officials for important public safety announcements, including evacuations and suspending gas usage,” Gov. Baker’s spokeswoman said.

In some cases the gas leaks were deadly. A home on Chickering Road in Lawrence exploded. The home has extensive damage and the chimney collapsed onto an SUV in the driveway. WBZ-TV’s Gary Brode says one person was taken to the hospital from the scene.

The FBI and NTSB were investigating the explosions. “We are coordinating with our law enforcement partners as expected and personnel are on scene, as we normally would be in a situation like this to assess the situation,” the FBI said in a statement.

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera says the issue appears to be in the southeast part of the city. "What we know is that there have been multiple explosions, multiple fires that are happening across the city,” Rivera told WBZ. “What we need folks to do is that if it’s happening in your home, you have a funny smell, just evacuate, come out to the street.”

North Andover Police told residents and businesses with gas service to exit their buildings until further notice. The area is covered by Columbia for gas, but National Grid for electric. National Grid says their electric crews are responding to assist.