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Lawrence Response To Gas Fires

In Lawrence, Crews Assess Damage From Gas Fires

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The makeshift command center in Lawrence, Mass.
Tina Martin/WGBH News
Lawrence Response To Gas Fires

More than 18,000 homes and businesses are in the dark this morning, most of them concentrated in Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence, where as many as 80 gas fires along with several explosions erupted last evening. At least a dozen people are being treated at Lawrence General Hospital and at least one person has died. WGBH Radio's Tina Martin joined Morning Edition Host Joe Mathieu from Lawrence, where officials have put a makeshift briefing zone together. The following transcript has been edited for clarity.

Joe Mathieu: Tell us what you're looking at, Tina? We know that federal investigators are en route. But how many local authorities, how many first responders are gathered there?

Tina Martin: Right now I'm looking at the Lawrence police mobile command post that literally just drove into this makeshift center within the last five minutes. The state police command center is here, as well as the Middlesex Sheriff. I'm also looking at, within the last literally 10 minutes, there have been fire crews that have showed up here from East Brookfield, Winchester Oxford, Sutton, Dedham. Everyone essentially has their lights flashing, which was not the case when I got here at about 5 o'clock this morning. So there has been quite a bit of activity that picked up here within the last 15 minutes.

Mathieu: Now that we're shedding some light on things here this morning, I suspect we'll have a much better sense of the level of damage that we're talking about, Tina. But we know the crews have been going door to door all night.

Martin: They have been going door to door, and that was one of the few things that I did get from a Middlesex Sheriff official here, was that they have officers going door to door with members from the gas crews. And so that was important for him to make sure that we understood that these officers weren't just showing up at these houses. They did have representatives from the gas company. And as you said earlier, Governor Baker definitely made it clear that public safety was its first concern when it came to this incident, but also to hold whoever is responsible accountable, and Columbia Gas company issued a statement earlier today probably about a half hour ago that their thoughts were with the community and that they had crews visiting the 8,600 customers that were impacted, and that they're going to be cooperating — key word there is cooperating — fully with the authorities to try to figure out exactly what happened.

Mathieu: Understood. WGBH Radio's Tina Martin is talking with us right now from the command center in Lawrence. Tina, we understand there will be another briefing in about an hour.

Martin: There is going to be another briefing in about an hour, and of course I will be here and will keep you posted on all those updates. One very important thing to note as well. We do have service workers out here and there is the Salvation Army. They have two vans out here along with the American Red Cross trying to serve people and make sure that people are as comfortable as they can be out here. This is literally a parking lot and everyone's kind of just converged on it.

Mathieu: All right, WGBH radio's Tina Martin joining us from the Lawrence command center. We'll have a lot more from Tina and our reporters in the field throughout the morning here on WGBH's Morning Edition.

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