Tragedy struck the Merrimack Valley communities of Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover on Thursday afternoon, as multiple gas explosions wreaked havoc. As of Friday morning, it was reported that at least one person was dead and 10 had been injured as a result of the explosions. Governor Baker immediately visited the communities last night, and expressed concern for the safety of local residents. The Governor indicated that an investigation was secondary at this point, and that ensuring the safety of the area was the first priority. Currently, there are hundreds of families displaced, as the utilities are not able to say with certainty that all issues have been resolved. Thankfully, local communities are coming together and providing food, lodging, fire personnel, and other help to those in need.
Tragically, an 18 year old man named Leonel Rondon was killed during a fire resulting from the explosion, when a chimney fell on him. Rondon was simply sitting in his car when the great weight of the chimney fell on it, likely killing him instantly.
First and foremost, our thoughts are with the residents of these towns as they deal with devastating losses. While we can all take pride in the willingness of people to help, we still have a long way to go. Secondly, we do not yet know the exact cause of the fires, but one thing appears abundantly clear: this type of incident is not supposed to happen. While gas lines involve an obvious danger, given the flammable nature of natural gas, they actually operate very safely when run properly. As of 2014, it was estimated that approximately 48% of homes in the Untied States heated with natural gas. It speaks to the safety of properly run natural gas that we hear of so few explosions and fires due to gas.