Gas explosions and fire

Investigation Details

What Happened

?On September 13, 2018, about 4:00 p.m. local time, a series of structure fires and explosions occurred after high-pressure natural gas was released into a low-pressure natural gas distribution system in the northeast region of the Merrimack Valley in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The natural gas distribution system was owned and operated by Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, a subsidiary of NiSource, Inc. Columbia Gas of Massachusetts delivers natural gas to about 325,000 customers in Massachusetts. One person was killed and 22 individuals, including three firefighters, were transported to local hospitals due to injuries; seven other firefighters incurred minor injuries. The fires and explosions damaged 131 structures, including at least 5 homes that were destroyed in the city of Lawrence and the towns of Andover and North Andover. Most of the damage occurred from fires ignited by natural gas-fueled appliances; several of the homes were destroyed by natural gas-fueled explosions. Fire departments from the three municipalities were dispatched to the fires and explosions. First responders initiated the Massachusetts fire-mobilization plan and received mutual aid from neighboring districts in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. Emergency management officials had National Grid United States (the electric utility) shut down electrical power in the area, the state police closed local roads, and freight and passenger railroad operations in the area were suspended. Columbia Gas of Massachusetts shut down the low-pressure natural gas distribution system, affecting 10,894 customers, including some outside the area who had their service shut off as a precaution.