LAWRENCE — Technicians are painstakingly splicing thousands of individual copper and fiber-optic wires under the Central Bridge, slowly restoring TV, Internet and phone service to thousands of customers throughout the Merrimack Valley and Eastern Massachusetts.
Allison Cole, Verizon president of operations in New England, said crews are working around the clock under the bridge, where a homeless man set fire to a mattress just after midnight Monday. The mattress in turn ignited the cable that carries one of the company's primary communications conduits for the region.
Some Verizon customers in Andover, Lawrence, Littleton, Methuen, North Andover, North Reading and Tewksbury have lost some Verizon services as a result of the fire, she said. Also, voice and data services for some business and government customers may be affected. Customers in other communities may be impacted as well.
"Verizon crews worked through the night and made very good progress on restoring service for our customers," said Cole. "We have already restored critical network operational and surveillance circuits, high-capacity fiber backbone circuits, and worked with state and local officials to ensure that all 911 services are fully operational in the area."
According to North Andover police and fire officials, however, the 911 service is not functioning as it should.
Anybody who calls 911 from a cell phone in North Andover will get the State Police barracks in Andover. The barracks is then communicating with North Andover via cell phone or radio.
Anyone else with an emergency is getting patched through to the Andover Public Safety dispatch center, where dispatchers are also communicating with North Andover police and fire via radio or cell phone, according to Police Chief Paul Gallagher.
"Verizon is keeping us updated," Gallagher said. Their last update, earlier today, was that they are "still working on it."
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency airlifted 20 emergency radios to North Andover, landing a helicopter at Osgood Landing and then delivering the radios to the Police Department across the street.