Gas explosions and fires in homes in Lawrence, North Andover and Andover

Residents in three communities north of Boston are being told to evacuate their homes after multiple explosions and fires in the area. Emergency crews have responded to dozens of different addresses and flames could be seen burning at a number of homes.

One person is dead and dozens more were injured in a series of gas explosions and fires that damaged homes in three communities north of Boston Thursday afternoon.

An issue with a high pressure gas main impacted South Lawrence, North Andover and Andover. Anyone who has gas service from Columbia Gas was told to leave their homes until further notice. Teams consisting of gas technicians, fire and police personnel were going door-to-door to make sure the gas is shut off to about 8,600 meters.

In Lawrence, a man was killed when a home exploded on Chickering Road. The Essex District Attorney says 18-year-old Leonel Rondon was inside a car in the driveway of the home when a chimney fell on it. Rondon was pronounced dead at Mass General Hospital.

Power was shut off in large sections of the three communities as a precaution. Images from WBZ-TV’s Skyeye helicopter Thursday night showed huge areas of darkened neighborhoods, illuminated only by the lights of police cruisers, dispersed to keep the peace and direct traffic.

According to MEMA Director Kurt Schwartz, emergency crews responded to between 60 and 80 fires, and three explosions within a very short time frame.

There were a total of 38 fires in Andover alone. All fires were extinguished by 6:45 p.m. At peak, 18 fires were burning at the same time.

Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield said he has not seen anything like this in his 39-year career.

“It looked like Armageddon, it really did,” Chief Mansfield said. “There were billows of smoke coming from Lawrence behind me, I could see plumes of smoke in front of me, within the town of Andover, it looked like an absolute war zone.”

By early Friday morning, residents south of the intersection of Route 28 and Salem Street were allowed to return home. Mansfield estimated it could be a week and a half before every home in Andover is deemed safe for return.

According to MEMA Director Kurt Schwartz, at least 25 people were treated for injuries. Lawrence General Hospital was treating 13 patients from the gas explosions. The injuries ranged from smoke inhalation to “traumatic blast injuries.”

It is still not clear what caused the explosions and fires. The Department of Public Utilities and MEMA from a state level, and the Department of Public Utilities and NTSB from the federal level, will be involved in the investigation.

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