National Guard Hands Out Space Heaters As Residents, Businesses Carry On Without Gas

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Fire investigators pause while searching the debris at a home which exploded following a gas line failure in Lawrence. (Charles Krupa/AP)
Fire investigators pause while searching the debris at a home which exploded following a gas line failure in Lawrence. (Charles Krupa/AP)

National Guard teams have been deploying in Lawrence to distribute space heaters to the half of the city that is without gas after the explosions nearly two weeks ago.

They are accompanied by representatives of Columbia Gas and electricians. They have also been handing out hot plates in the city for anyone who needs them.

The electricians are checking whether people's homes could take the extra power demand of the space heaters.

"Our water is electric, thank God, but it's just the whole situation, we can't cook, so most of it is just microwave food, or sometimes I literally just won't eat," says Adriana Figueroa at the front door of her home. She lives with her niece and her mother.

Figueroa already has space heaters — she wants to cook.

"That's really the big issue is that we cook, so because the oven is not working and our stove is not working, we can't really do much about it," she says.

The circuit breakers for her building are in the bar next door, Hayes Tavern.
"The oldest bar in town," the sign says out front.

"Who needs to get to the panel? Come this way!" says Bruce Caron, who works at the bar. He takes the team to the basement.

"This is our panel," he says.

The electrician says he wants to see the third-floor panel for one of the homes upstairs.

"Oh, third floor! Oh, I don't know," Caron says. "I thought you wanted to see Hayes's panel. Oh, we're not getting space heaters? We're in a bar, but we're not going to get no space heaters?"

Before they distribute space heaters, the team has to gather information on the panels.

Back upstairs, Caron explains how the bar gets by without gas.

"You do the best you can," he says. "I heat the water for the glasses in the electric ovens. I have crock pots, hot plates, electric ovens to cook in."

But Caron still has one big worry.


"That it's going to happen again," he says. "I'm not very secure with the work that's been done because if this happened once..."

Caron says he served in the Marine Corps for a decade.

"I'd rather go back overseas and deal with that than deal with what's going on around here," he says.

Help may be on the way for small businesses. After meeting with a group of Lawrence small business owners, Gov. Charlie Baker said business owners told him they're worried about losing their employees if they have to wait until Nov. 19 to reopen. That's the date the gas is scheduled to be turned back on.

"Every single conversation I've had with these folks, they start talking about their staff, and they talk about people who have been with them for five years, people who pay their mortgage, pay their rent, pay for their groceries based on the work they do at that firm, that's my primary concern, and by the way, I'm worried about losing those people," Baker said.

The governor said his office is looking into short-term loans to help affected businesses meet payroll and other costs until Columbia Gas reimburses them.

This segment aired on September 25, 2018.


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Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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