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60-80 homes burn; gas line "incident" in northern MA

Accepted submission by urza9814 at 2018-09-14 17:07:38 from the whoops, wrong valve dept.

An extimated 60-80 fires, 3 explosions, and numerous gas leaks were reported last night in the towns around Lawrence, MA (north of Boston). The incident has been linked to lines operated by Columbia Gas of Massachusetts. Columbia Gas has not released an official cause yet, but MEMA (The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency) and some of the local firefighters have speculated that the cause was an over-pressurized gas line. Columbia was conducting planned upgrades on the lines at the time of the incident. One person has been killed; 25 more have been injured.

I was listening to the fire radio as it happened and it sounded like complete chaos -- it was just the dispatch, but there was not a single moment of silence as they scrambled to get crews to all of the affected areas and coordinate the response across four separate towns (Lawrence, Andover, North Andover, and Methuen.) The local first responders were initially asking residents to shut off their gas lines; this quickly changed to calls for all Columbia Gas customers to evacuate, which then increased to an order for immediate evacuation of the entire area. Overnight police and fire officials were going door-to-door enforcing the evacuation, and it is not known at this time when residents may be allowed to return. The electric service has been shut down to the entire area to limit possible sources of ignition, and officials have stated there are over 8000 homes which need to be individually inspected before the residents can return.

So far, Columbia Gas has not provided any confirmation or explanation [] of the exact cause of this disaster...but I'm sure we've got some people here who have some speculation to offer...

The local Eagle Tribune [] has a number of articles with further information, and there's limited coverage in national sources like CNN [].

Original Submission