LAWRENCE, Mass. (CBS/AP) — Residents in three communities north of Boston are being told to evacuate their homes after multiple explosions and fires in the area. CBS Boston station WBZ reports emergency crews have responded to dozens of different addresses and extensive damage could be seen at a number of homes.
Six patients were being treated at Lawrence General Hospital, CBS Boston reports. Two were in critical condition.
Officials say an issue with a high pressure gas main has affected Lawrence, North Andover and Andover. Anyone in those towns who has gas service from Columbia Gas should leave their homes until further notice.
Massachusetts State Police said there were 70 responses to fires, explosions and investigations of gas odor. CBS Boston reports there were 35 fires in Andover alone. All of those 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.
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera said in a press conference that 12-14 homes were directly impacted, and while they can’t located a geographic area, if you have gas in your home, you should evacuate. Gov. Charlie Baker said 8,000 customers’ power was affected.
Andover Fire-Rescue sent a 10-alarm response, the highest level.
Massachusetts State Police posted a map showing fires and explosions stretching across a swath of the community, saying “39 locations confirmed thus far. Number will grow. New responses ongoing.”
Joseph Solomon, the police chief in nearby Methuen, responded to Lawrence to help and said there are so many fires burning that “you can’t even see the sky.”
Massachusetts State Police say gas lines are currently being depressurized by the company. CBS Boston reported that Columbia Gas was doing work in the area earlier on Thursday.
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.
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera says the issue appears to be in the southeast part of the city. He says all residents should evacuate their homes if they smell gas.
“What we know is that there have been multiple explosions, multiple fires that are happening across the city,” Rivera told WBZ-TV. “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.”
FBI agents are on the scene to assist local police in the investigation. “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.