A home in North Andover damaged by a gas explosion. (Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
ANDOVER (WBZ-AM) -- Describing the scene in Andover as gas explosions and fires erupted across three Merrimack Valley cities Thursday evening, Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield said, "it looked like Armageddon."
The fires and explosions, caused by work on high-pressure Columbia Gas lines, caused several injuries and led to large-scale evacuations. Chief Mansfield said they were still waiting to confirm with Columbia that the explosions were caused by over-pressurization.
"Gas has not been turned off--we are still dealing with the possibility of gas still running through some of the mains in an overpressurized state," he said.
The chief said Andover experienced 38 active fires and at least 17 additional gas leaks.
He said four people in total were injured, including two firefighters who suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
"I've been in the fire service for almost 39 years, and I've never seen anything like this in my entire career," he said. "To sum it up, basically coming into town from a community just outside of here responding back in, it looked like Armageddon. There were billows of smoke coming from Lawrence behind me, I could see plumes of smoke in front of me within the town of Andover. It just looked like an absolute war zone, and something that I've never experienced in my fire service career, and hopefully I don't have to experience it ever again."
He said officials were trying to open stations where people could stay Thursday night, and said the department was working to update residents on social media.
ATTENTION ANDOVER: if you know how to safely shut off your gas, please do so. Residents and businesses are being advised to evacuate. We will post updates as soon as we have information.— Town of Andover, MA (@AndoverMaGov) September 13, 2018
He also asked residents to shut off their gas, if they knew how.
"If the individual residents have the ability and the knowledge as to how to shut down the gas to their individual homes, do so before you go back into the home, and make sure there is no odor of gas inside that home before you occupy it again," he said.
Listen to Chief Mansfield here: