Dozens of homes on fire in MA after series of gas leaks

The three communities house more than 146,000 residents about 26 miles (40 kilometers) north of Boston, near the New Hampshire border.

The National Transportation Safety Board is gathering information.

A building burns after explosions in Lawrence, Mass., in this Thursday photo from social media by Boston Sparks. "This is the sort of thing a gas distribution company hopes to never have".

Authorities named the dead teenager as Leonel Rondon, 18, of Lawrence, died after a chimney toppled by an exploding house crashed into his vehicle. If you have power and smell gas, do not turn any electric appliances on or off. Refrain from using your home phone, cell phone or a flashlight if you smell gas.

Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield described the harrowing scene as, "Armageddon".

At least three people have been injured in Andover, including one firefighter and two civilians, town officials said in a statement.

People cover their faces to protect themselves from heavy smoke.

"The administration urges residents to heed instructions from local officials for important public safety announcements, including evacuations and suspending gas usage". "Praying for those affected", Gov. Chris Sununu said in a tweet.

Crews work to knock down a fire in Lawrence, Massachusetts, on Thursday.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency blamed the fires on gas lines that had become over-pressurized, but officials who responded to the area were still investigating the cause.

Lawrence, Andover and North Andover were included Thursday morning in an alert from Columbia Gas of MA telling customers on its website that it was "upgrading natural gas lines in neighborhoods" across the state.

It was not clear whether work was happening there at the time, and a spokeswoman did not immediately comment.

Red Cross centers were open to shelter evacuees while Lawrence public schools were to shutter Friday. "My first thought was this is a gas explosion".

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Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, he said, serves a residential/commercial (res/com) load "in a fairly small area around Lawrence, MA".

"I would say that we've advanced this as rapidly as it could possibly be advanced", he told reporters. "It's total destruction. I'd be completely devastated".

John Fluegge said he came home Thursday to find a note on the door of his apartment building saying everyone had to leave.

He declared a state of emergency in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover and said that allows him to put Eversource - "the organization that we want to have manage this effort".

Ra Nam, a Lawrence resident, said he was in his yard when the smoke detector in his basement went off about 4:30pm.

Nam says he ran downstairs and saw that his boiler was on fire. Lawrence City Councilor Marc Laplante said entire neighborhoods were being evacuated in the Colonial Heights area, which he represents.

Lawrence General Hospital said it was treating four people with injuries related to the fires, but it did not provide details about their condition.

Firefighters battle a large structure fire in Lawrence, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston.

Arial footage of the area showed some homes that appeared to be torn apart by blasts.

Police Chief Joseph Solomon claimed there are so many fires "you can't even see the sky".

"If you want to know what to do to help folks, in Lawrence go to the senior center", Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera said.

Emergency crews are responding to what they believe is a series of gas explosions that have damaged homes across three communities north of Boston.

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