ANDOVER (WBZ-AM) -- Andover resident Paige Matthews arrived home Thursday night to her fire alarm going off.
"I automatically smelled smoke and I could kind of see a haze in my kitchen," she told WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Mike Macklin. "I didn't know where it was coming from, and I didn't know what to do. I grabbed my dog and I grabbed my phone, and that was it."
She didn't know that, across Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence, several explosions and fires were breaking out nearly simultaneously in a disaster that would leave one dead, several injured, and thousands evacuated from their homes.
Merrimack Valley Communities Recovering After Gas Explosions
Matthews said she called 911, but then remembered her cat.
"If it wasn't for my cat in the basement who was yelling at the door, I wouldn't have opened up the basement door," she said. "He ran out, and I saw flames in the basement coming from the furnace, like a full-blown bonfire almost."
Firefighters arrived in about ten minutes, took care of the fire, and shut off the gas--but had to take off quick. There were nearly 40 fires in Andover alone.
"He said, 'We have so many more fires going on right now, so we have to go, but your house is all set,' and that was it," she said. "I'm just so glad no one was home, I got home early, and it was just amazing that the dog's okay and everyone's okay and it's just a little bit of damage in the furnace area and the basement and that's it."
WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Mike Macklin (@mikemacklinwbz) reports