At least one killed, residents evacuated, power shut off after gas related explosions

By: Associated Press

Email: News Staff

Twitter: @ABC6

LAWRENCE, Mass. (AP)- Authorities in Massachusetts say a natural gas issue is to blame for at least 39 fires that erupted in homes across communities in Boston and is to blame for the death of an 18 year-old man..

According to our Boston affiliate WCVB, 18 year-old Leonel Rondon is dead after a chimney fell on his car as a result of an explosion, with another 11 injuries reported, and two people in critical condition.. 

A spokesman for the Andover Police Department says residents in Lawrence, North Andover and Andover whose homes are serviced by Columbia Gas were urged to evacuate on Thursday afternoon.

Massachusetts State Police say Columbia Gas is working to depressurize gas lines in the area. A company spokeswoman did not immediately provide comment.

State Police say they have confirmed fires at 39 locations but warn the number will grow.

Governor Charlie Baker spoke to reporters, saying once the public safety issue is handled, officials will take a look at why this happened.

"This is still very much an active scene. There will be plenty of time later tonight, tomorrow morning and into the next day to do some of the work determining what happened and why," he said.

The three communities house more than 146,000 residents and are located about 26 miles (42 kilometers) north of Boston.

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera said there are several shelters set up in his community, as well as Andover and North Andover to residents displaced after evacuation orders.

"There is no expectation right now that people will be able to get back to their homes this evening," he said.

Officials said it could be weeks before Columbia Gas gives the all clear.

Police Chief Joseph Solomon in nearby Methuen says there are so many fires “you can’t even see the sky.”

Lawrence General Hospital says it has treated four victims with fire-related injuries but did not immediately release their conditions or the severity of the injuries.

Residents in those areas with homes that are serviced by Columbia gas have been urged to evacuate.

Columbia fire has since released a statement:

"Columbia Gas crews are currently responding to reports of multiple fires in Lawrence. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by today’s incident.

    The first priority for our crews at the scene is to ensure the safety of our customers and the community by supporting first responders and completing safety checks on our system and in the surrounding area.

    We appreciate the response of local emergency responders and their coordination with our teams."

    The following are guidelines and steps the company is asking customers to take to stay safe in the wake of the reported explosions and fires today. 

    "If a customer smells an odor of natural gas, they should leave the area immediately, move to a safe location and call 911 and our emergency number at 1-800-525-8222.

    If a customer smells an odor of natural gas:

    • Don’t turn off gas to your house or to any appliances.
    • Don’t try to find the leak yourself or operate pipeline valves.
    • Don’t light a match or candle, or operate anything that could cause a spark, including home phones or cell phones, lights, appliances, flashlights, power tools, etc.
    • Don’t open the windows and doors in an attempt to ventilate."

    This story contains information from the Associated Press.