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Andover’s first call came in Thursday afternoon at 4:19 for a stove fire at Grassfields restaurant on North Main Street.
A stove fire. Fairly routine.
But within two minutes a barrage of fire calls flooded dispatch. Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield was driving in Methuen, monitoring his emergency communications on his way home.
Similar emergencies blared from the radio: reports of fires breaking out in Lawrence and North Andover, too.
What was going on?
What ensued was 38 fires in Andover. Many of them rising from basements. Similar fires broke out in North Andover.
Lawrence was hit the hardest. A teenager died as a result of an explosion. Dozens of people were injured. Fires roared amid gas explosions — not on one street, not in one neighborhood but across a city and two towns.