Volunteers with the Salvation Army based out of New London are departing early Saturday morning to provide food and help those affected by the gas explosions in Massachusetts.
One person is dead and dozens injured after a natural gas leak in a line sparked a fire that decimated homes on Thursday night in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover, Massachusetts.
Many of the homes that were impacted were supplied by Columbia Gas Company, whose lack of response to address the problem prompted Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to request Eversource MA to take the lead in recovery efforts.
Gas utility crews from Norwich, New Haven, and Greenwich also descended on the Merrimack Valley to help restore service.
Channel 3 spoke with crews on Friday from Norwich Public Utilities who said the work on Farnham Street entails entering homes, checking the gas meter is off, then double checking with a gas sensor to ensure there is no elevated gas level in the home before residents can return.
“I would say at this time, they’ve depressurized the system, the danger level is low. We’re just making sure there’s no danger at all,” said Norwich Public Utilities representative, Chris LaRose. “If you have too much gas pressure it causes pilots to get higher and it can cause issues with the boilers and furnaces.”
The cause of the explosions is under investigation, but officials believe the issue is related to a high pressure gas main that was possibly over-pressurized.
Channel 3 spoke with the former fire chief in Oakdale and coordinator for Salvation Army New London who explained that an over-pressurized gas could result in mass destruction.
“The flame in your pilot light, when they put that much more into the pipe, instead of it being a tiny flame, that thing can go this big, it’s like a torch,” said Murphy.
Massachusetts crews battled 60 to 80 fires on Thursday and tended to the rubble of three explosions on Friday. An 18-year-old died after part of a chimney fell on the car he was in.
Despite unexpected tragedies, Murphy said natural gas is typically safe.
“It’s very unlikely that you’ll have that incident happen. It’s so unheard of,” said Murphy.
On Friday night, Murphy and several volunteers stocked the Salvation Army canteen full of food and supplies.
“Tomorrow, I could serve 500 meals off that truck,” said Murphy.
On Saturday morning, they will leave southeastern Connecticut for Northeastern, Mass to feed first responders and assist victims, who in many cases, lost everything. Murphy expects he and his team could stay for days.
Those displaced by the explosions and fires could be homeless throughout the weekend as restoration is expected to take days. Connecticut crews will stay throughout the process.
If you would like to donate to the Salvation Army, click here. If you would like to donate to the Salvation Army New London, CT district, send checks to 11 Governor Winthrop Blvd., New London, CT 06320.