DANVERS — As gas explosions and fires rocked the Merrimack Valley Thursday, some local people recalled a similar, smaller emergency in Danvers about 30 years ago.
Six people were treated for injuries from explosions in Danvers sparked by gas leaks on April 2, 1990, after a Boston Gas Co. worker “accidentally fed highly pressurized natural gas into a low-pressure system serving homes,” according to an article in the Beverly Times, which later merged with The Salem News. The explosions occurred in houses and condominiums on Beaver Park Avenue and Maple, Lafayette, and Venice streets.
Residents and others who witnessed the explosions and their aftermath recall it vividly, especially after Thursday’s disaster in Lawrence, North Andover, and Andover.
Selectman Bill Clark was teaching at Danvers High the day of the fires. He said one of his students had gone home after school to cook dinner for her parents, but when she opened the gas stove, her eyebrows and some of the hair on her forehead was burned away from a burst of heat.
Clark also said he received a call from a tenant of his who was living in a house on Hobart Street. The flame from the pilot light in the home was burning about 2 feet high, he said.
“I went down to Beaver Park to observe what was going on,” Clark said. “There were houses burning all around. Fire trucks were coming from all over the area.”
“It was a very similar situation to what happened in Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence yesterday,” he added. “It was on a smaller scale, but still catastrophic.”
Leland Martin, who was the fire chief at the time, told the Beverly Times that damage from the explosions was estimated at $500,000. The article said one woman was seriously burned on her feet and legs before she was rescued.
“It happened so fast, there weren’t enough emergency officials to take care of it,” Clark said. “Just like in Lawrence. A couple of buildings burned for a couple minutes before firefighters could get there to fight the fires.”
Tom Farmer, a reporter at the Lynn Daily Item at the time, remembers covering the gas leaks and fires that sprang up all over town that day.
“It was in the area of Route 62, near St. John’s Prep,” he said. “It was really crazy. I remember going to a couple of different houses. I just remember being struck by how odd it was to have all those fires in different places. When this happened yesterday, this was the first thing I thought of. I was like, wow, that happened in Danvers.”
Galo Putnam Emerson Jr., a longtime Danvers resident, said he remembers the day of the gas leaks although he wasn’t affected by the fires.
“A lot of businesses got interrupted,” he said. “It was big news at the time. A number of buildings were wrecked, burned. It really changed the face of that area because it all got rebuilt. It looks pretty good down there now.”
Kelsey Bode can be reached at 978-338-2660 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsey_Bode.