Dozens of explosions, apparently triggered by a natural gas pipeline rupture, rocked three communities near Boston on Thursday, killing at least one person, injuring 12 and prompting the evacuation of hundreds, officials said.
An 18-year-old Lawrence man, Leonel Rondon, died when one explosion knocked over a chimney that fell on his vehicle, a spokesman at Massachusetts General Hospital said.
State police tweeted to say a gas leak may be behind the blast.
The streets were darkened after utility crews cut off electricity and began shutting down gas service to the area to prevent further blasts.
Massachusetts State Police said that the gas lines are being depressurized, but noted that the process "will take some time".
Epping Fire Chief Don DeAngelis said his firefighters were asked to respond to a school in North Andover where they would be staged, along with Brentwood fire crews.
Gas explosions and subsequent fires on Thursday evening caused one death, multiple injuries and widespread damage in the Merrimack Valley, namely Lawrence, North Andover and Andover.
Local officials said at least one firefighter and two civilians were injured in the "gas-related fires". Lawrence resident Ra Nam said he was in his yard when the smoke detector in his basement went off. 28 and Salem Street were allowed to return home early Friday • Power shut off to South Lawrence, parts of Andover and North Andover.
"Gas lines are now being depressurised", police said on Twitter, adding that "it will take some time".
Columbia Gasalso said it's working with officials to "investigate this incident in order to understand its cause". No other information on a timeline or work required was immediately available from the company.
Meanwhile, there are fears that the number of fires may rise, as police say the reports keep coming in.
Firefighters put out 35 fires in Andover, town officials said. "What we need folks to do is that if it's happening in your home, you have a amusing smell, just evacuate, come out to the street".
"It was very scary", she said.
The three communities house more than 146,000 residents and are located about 42 kilometres north of Boston.
"People need to get out of this area safely, and it's really hard because the traffic right now is horrendous", he said.
"I have been in the fire service for nearly 39 years and I have never seen anything like this in my entire career", Andover Fire Rescue Chief Michael Mansfield said.
Joseph Solomon, the police chief in nearby Methuen, said 20 to 25 homes were on fire in Lawrence when he responded to help. Lawrence, the largest of them, is a majority Latino city with a population of about 80,000.
Gas service was interrupted for 250 customers in Lawrence last month "due to hit line by a third party", according to Columbia Gas.