Gloucester, MA – National Grid has discovered at least five more natural gas leaks around Gloucester following a massive explosion that leveled an Eastern Avenue home last weekend and seriously injured a veteran Gloucester police officer.
Mayor Carolyn Kirk said the most significant leak, beyond the Eastern Avenue location, was along Lantern Lane, where National Grid is working to replace 330 feet of gas main. Two smaller leaks were located and are being addressed along Elizabeth Road and one each on Addison and Webster streets.
A neighborhood meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday at Rose Baker Senior Center during which officials will provide an update on the situation and answer residents questions.
Our priority is the folks in that direct neighborhood, Kirk said in a telephone interview.
The home of Officer Wayne Sargent at 76 Eastern Avenue was engulfed in a wall of flames and smoke at 8 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 25 while the owner was still inside. Neighbors pulled Sargent to safety, but not before he had incurred serious burns to his hands and face. Neighboring homes windows were blown out with the force of the explosion and suffered fire damage.
No other residents or firefighters were injured from the incident.
According to Fire Chief Barry McKay, Sargent was just returning home from a night shift Sunday morning when he heard noise coming from the basement furnace. He was in the midst of calling his furnace company when the home blew apart.
The Gloucester Fire Department was alerted at 7:59 a.m. on Sunday about the Eastern Avenue explosion, McKay said. By 8:03 a.m., the first team of firefighters arrived on the scene.
Deputy Fire Chief Steve Aiello called for reinforcements once he saw at least three homes had been affected by the blaze and one resident, Sargent, was seriously injured, McKay said.
The chief called bystanders quick reaction to pull Sargent from the burning debris truly heroic.
Sargent was immediately transferred by ambulance to an awaiting helicopter and flown to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
On Wednesday, Jan. 28, a hospital spokeswoman stated Sargent is in good condition, but would not elaborate.
Lt. Jerris Cook of the Gloucester Police Department confirmed his colleague was doing much better at the MGH burn unit, adding doctors expected him to be up and walking by mid-week.
Firefighters fought the Eastern Avenue blaze for close to two hours before it was under control. The avenue was closed through Sunday and reopened at 4 p.m. on Monday before the afternoon commute.
Although a natural gas leak along Eastern Avenue may have contributed to the explosion, no cause has officially been determined. The Gloucester Fire Department is partnering with the State Fire Marshalls office to conduct a full investigation of the incident.
Since Sunday morning, National Grid officials have been walking the streets neighboring Eastern Avenue with odor and leak detectors.
Theyve pretty much buttoned up the site itself, Kirk said.
The company has also sent a fleet of vehicles around the city to sniff for other leaks once every 24 hours.
A National Grid spokesman failed to return phone calls requesting further information before the Beacons deadline.
McKay said the fire department received an overwhelming number of 911 calls following the explosion from neighbors concerned about suspicious gas smells in their neighborhoods. Residents were given National Grids leak and odor hotline (1-800-231-5325). Calls have since tapered off.
Citing neighbors continued concern, Kirk called for the neighborhood meeting at Rose Baker Senior Center. Ward 1 City Councilor Jason Grow, state Sen. Bruce Tarr, and state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante will accompany the mayor, as well as representatives from Naitonal Grid, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities and the citys police, fire and public works departments.
We are acutely aware of the concerns by the public, McKay said.