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Gas Fires and Explosions affect the Merrimack Valley

CAITLIN GAGNON, WRITER

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On Sept. 13, many homes in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover were affected by gas explosions and fires. According to Michael Mansfield, the chief of the Andover Fire Department who has been working on the force for 39 years, “It looked like Armageddon, it really did.” An armageddon is another term for the apocalypse and is supposed to be the last battle between good and evil. According to the Washington Post, the gas explosions and fires resulted in a total of 75 fires. A mass evacuation was ordered on Sept. 13 for the three towns, whose combined population is over 146,000 people. One death was reported and 23 people were injured. School for all three towns was canceled on Sept. 14. Instead, the school buildings were used as shelters for the displaced residents. According to a police chief in Methuen, Joseph Solomon, the fires were so bad that the sky was not visible. The gas fires originated from buildings using Columbia Gas. The company sent out a statement saying they will be sending crews out to all 8,600 of their relevant customers to conduct a safety check. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker stated that the gas company did not tell any authorities of this plan, but rather, just sent out the statement above. Baker sent the Columbia cleaning crews away from the area because they were not helping the cleaning efforts, instead making it more difficult. Columbia Gas claims they will be upgrading the gas lines in order to prevent a situation like this from happening again. A lawsuit is currently being filed against Columbia Gas by the citizens of the three affected towns.

The Pentucket community was also affected by this disaster. Some Pentucket teachers live in Andover and the surrounding areas, since it is a short 15 minutes away from the Pentucket Middle School and High School. Several teachers affected by the explosions were not in school on Sept. 14. Some students may be hosting relatives who live in the Andover area for the time being. The Haverhill trains were not running the day after the incident, but were replaced with shuttle buses as a precaution. There was also a question of whether or not the gas explosions could have spread to the Pentucket area. After safety searches, Columbia Gas seemed confident that the explosions would stay in the Andover area, after the gas was turned off.

(Cover Photo Source: CBS)

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