Students’ families displaced after Massachusetts fires on Thursday

By on September 18, 2018

By Owen Meech and Amanda Perelli

Students were relying on social media updates last Thursday, Sept. 13 when three Massachusetts communities were rocked by three explosions and over 60 fires, displacing families tied to the Quinnipiac community.

“My mom had to evacuate our home at a super fast pace and wasn’t sure where to go given most of our family lives in the same area and most of the hotels were being filled,” senior health science major, Caroline Malarney, whose neighborhood uses Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, said.    

Investigation for the cause of the fires is still underway, but are said to have stemmed from an over-pressurized gas pipe in houses with Columbia Gas.

Photo Courtesy of Carl Russo /The Eagle-Tribune
Residents of Andover, Lawrence and North Andover were instructed to evacuate their homes as Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency, and as of Sept. 16, residents were authorized to return home, according to a press release from Town Manager Andrew P. Flanagan, Police Chief Patrick Keefe and Fire Chief Michael B. Mansfield.

“I was in my room when I first looked on Facebook and saw a lot of my friends from home posting photos of fires,” third year 3+3 physical therapy major, Rachel Harris said. “I was scared thinking my town was also affected, but then my mom called me and let me know our house was fine. I was pretty freaked out since so many people I know were in the area and I didn’t know who was okay yet, but thankfully all of my friends and family turned out fine.”

Columbia Gas will now replace 48 miles of pipeline, according to WBUR. The National Transportation Safety Board said investigating the matter completely could take up to two years.

Senior nursing major Eimile Maxwell lives in the town next to Andover. She learned of the emergency on Facebook.

“When I heard about the explosions in Massachusetts I was scared and concerned,” Maxwell said. “Then I found out they were in Andover, I got the chills. My house borders Andover and I immediately thought of my friends and family back home.”

The event injured 25 people and killed one man, 18-year-old Leonel Rondon of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Rondon was in a parked car when a house explosion caused a chimney to crush the vehicle, according to reporting from The Eagle-Tribune.

Approximately six dozen homes were damaged, according to NBC News. At one point, 18 fires raged in Andover, Massachusetts simultaneously.

NBC News reports that National Grid was forced cut power to over 8000 homes as a safety precaution and five shelters were set up throughout the three towns.

Other Quinnipiac students from the area, like junior occupational therapy major and Andover resident Zoe Lyons, were anxious being far away from home during the incidents.

“Thankfully, my family is fine – my entire street actually doesn’t have gas but it was still scary receiving calls from the Andover Police saying there were gas explosions happening in our town when we’re over two hours away,” Lyons said.

Her friend struggled to get in touch with family, waiting to hear back for what seemed like over half an hour.

Lyons, an employee of Dig Safe, a not-for-profit clearinghouse that notifies participating utility companies of your plans to dig into the ground, said she knew small gas leaks happened often, but houses exploding and going up in flames is unusual.

“I know the communities of Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence have a lot of support and a strong sense in community to believe in,” said Lyons.

Junior occupational therapy major from Massachusetts, Carly Bonanno said upon hearing the news she also was unsure if anyone she knew was affected.

“I went home this weekend and so many streets were closed off, about 5 exits on the highway in that area were shut down,” Bonanno said. “I am definitely thankful that no one I know was directly affected. I am also really proud to see the community coming together to help anyone affected.”

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