The Sift Here’s what we’re Sifting today

Dozens of structures caught fire after explosions near Boston

by Kiley Crossland
Posted 9/14/18, 11:57 am

UPDATE: The director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said that firefighters responded to 60 to 80 structure fires Thursday in the three communities affected by a series of natural gas explosions. Kurt Schwartz said Friday that firefighters in Lawrence, North Andover, and Andover responded to about 150 emergency calls, adding that close to 400 people spent the night in emergency shelters. The cause of the fires and explosions remains under investigation.

OUR EARLIER REPORT (9:46 a.m.): A series of gas explosions north of Boston Thursday evening killed a teenager, injured at least 10 people, and set fire to at least 39 homes. Police evacuated residents from the Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover communities while trying to fight the flames and shut off the gas.

“It looked like Armageddon, it really did,” Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield told reporters. “There were billows of smoke coming from Lawrence behind me. I could see pillars of smoke in front of me from the town of Andover.”

Authorities said Leonel Rondon, 18, of Lawrence died Thursday when a chimney from an exploding house fell on his car.

Firefighters were able to put out all the fires by late Thursday, but it is still unclear exactly what happened and why. The three communities, located about 25 miles north of Boston, are home to 146,000 residents, but it appears the affected homes were all serviced by the Columbia Gas of Massachusetts. A statement released Friday by the company said it would visit each of the 8,600 affected customers to shut off the gas meter and conduct a safety inspection. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said an ongoing investigation could take days or weeks to turn up answers.

Read more from The Sift Sign up for The Sift email
Kiley Crossland

Kiley reports on marriage, family, and sexuality for WORLD Digital. Follow Kiley on Twitter @KileyCrossland.

Read more from this writer


  • OldMike
    Posted: Mon, 09/17/2018 04:09 pm

    I suspect air got into a gas pipeline near these communities. Whether due to human error or mechanical failure will hopefully be determined in the investigation. 

    Takes air (oxygen) for gas to ignite/explode. An air pocket in a pipe—or a pocket of gas mixed with air—reaches an outlet, such as a furnace or water heater, then the pilot or other ignition source ignites the gas/air mixture back into the pipe.  Enclosed space like a pipe makes fire turn into explosion. 

    Just guessing, of course.