By: Marilyn McGoldrick, Esq.

Gas Explosions and Fires Devastate Our Neighbors in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover

Over-pressured gas lines serviced by Columbia Gas Company burst and caused explosions and fires over a wide swath of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover Massachusetts last week. The shocking and deadly chaos erupted in the afternoon as gas lines exploded inside homes, causing dozens of fires in homes in the area simultaneously. Fire departments from all over the state as well as New Hampshire and Maine responded with equipment and firefighters. One man was killed as he sat in his car next to a house that exploded; the chimney of the house fell on his car.  At least 25 people were injured. Over 8000 people were ordered to evacuate their homes, and National Grid cut off electricity to the area as a precaution to prevent sparks from creating additional fires.

What Caused the Explosions?

On the day of the explosions, Columbia Gas posted a notice on its website stating that on that very day they would begin the process of upgrading natural gas lines in neighborhoods across the state.

The cause of the over-pressurization is undetermined at this time.

What Happens Next?

Residents won’t have gas for several weeks, as all the pipes that were put under tremendous pressure during the incident have to be replaced. 48 miles of cast iron and steel pipes must be replaced before gas service can be restored to the majority of the homes affected.

All of those involved have our greatest sympathies, from the homeowners and residents to the first responders and repair crews.  Massive disasters like this are very wearing on everyone involved as everything in life like finding food and temporary shelter – taking showers and washing your clothes – getting your children to and from school – worrying about what will become of your belongings – dealing with insurance company representatives – all become stressful undertakings that sap the life out of you.

What Should I Do?

Here’s some excellent advice from the Massachusetts Attorney General:

Homeowners Who Suffered Damage

    • If your home has been damaged or destroyed, it is important that you make a list as soon as possible of valuable items in your home (furniture, jewelry, electronics, cash, etc.). This will help complete claims paperwork later.
    • Keep all receipts for any money you spend related to this emergency, such as hotel bills, monies paid to hospitals, replacement clothing or baby supplies, etc.
    • If possible, document any damage with pictures or videos and do not dispose of any damaged items unless instructed otherwise.
    • Use reasonable means to save and preserve property that has not already been destroyed. For example, if possible, board or tarp open areas exposed to the elements to prevent water damage.
  • Public adjusters may attempt to contact you and offer to handle your insurance claim on your behalf. Public adjusters are supposed to act as your representative in dealing with an insurance company in exchange for a percentage of your insurance settlement. There is no requirement that you hire a public adjuster to handle your claim, but if you decide to enter into an agreement with a public adjuster, please read the contract carefully before signing it. (emphasis added)

Displaced Renters

    • Many renters in the region may be unable to safely occupy their homes for days or weeks, depending upon the extent of the damage. Some housing may be permanently uninhabitable.
    • Renters should contact their landlord and notify them in writing about the extent of damage to rental units.
    • Residents may want to document damage with photographs from their unit, if the unit can be entered safely.
    • If units are uninhabitable, renters should discuss alternate housing that the landlord can provide or withholding rent while the renter finds other housing.
    • Renters should review the terms of their leases to hold informed conversations.
  • All rental housing in Massachusetts must meet state standards for health and safety.

However, you should be aware that the Massachusetts General Attorney’s office is not able to give you legal advice, nor act as your personal attorney.

Trust our Massachusetts Environmental Disaster Lawyers to Help

Thornton Law Firm has represented victims of catastrophic accidents and environmental disasters for four decades. Our team of environmental lawyers is ready to assist any person or family who suffered damages and losses in these recent gas explosions and fires in our state. Call 888-491-9726 or our local number 617-720-1333 to speak with an attorney about your claim, or use our  online contact form here to send us a message with your information. The gas company and the insurance companies already have lawyers. Protect your interests as soon as you are able and get the legal advice you need.