The Latest: Natural gas issue blamed for at least 39 fires

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LAWRENCE, Mass. (AP) -- The Latest on gas explosions in Massachusetts (all times local):

6:45 p.m.

Authorities in Massachusetts say a natural gas issue is to blame for at least 39 fires that erupted in homes across communities in Boston.

A spokesman for the Andover Police Department says residents in Lawrence, North Andover and Andover whose homes are serviced by Columbia Gas were urged to evacuate on Thursday afternoon.

Massachusetts State Police say Columbia Gas is working to depressurize gas lines in the area. A company spokeswoman did not immediately provide comment.

State Police say they have confirmed fires at 39 locations but warn the number will grow.

The three communities house more than 146,000 residents and are located about 26 miles north of Boston.

Police Chief Joseph Solomon in nearby Methuen says there are so many fires "you can't even see the sky."

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5:10 PM

Emergency crews are responding to what they believe is a series of gas explosions that have damaged homes across three communities north of Boston.

Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon says there are 20 to 25 homes on fire in Lawrence. Solomon, who's in Lawrence, says there are so many fires "you can't even see the sky."

The Eagle-Tribune newspaper in North Andover reports at least one home has been destroyed and several others have caught fire amid a problem with a gas line that feeds homes in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence.

Massachusetts State Police say troopers are responding to the area to help secure areas after "multiple suspected gas explosions."

Lawrence Police Chief Roy Vasque told The Eagle-Tribune that he's "never seen anything like this."

The newspaper reported that some neighborhoods were being evacuated.

It was not immediately clear whether there were any injuries.