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How to help those affected by Merrimack Valley fires

Thousands of residents of Lawrence, North Andover and Andover were evacuated Thursday evening after dozens of explosions and fires broke out across those three communities due to a major issue with Columbia Gas lines. One person has been confirmed dead as of Thursday night, and at least 16 other injuries have been reported.

How to help:

- You can donate to the American Red Cross by visiting their Massachusetts website, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

- The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services Team was in Lawrence working to keep more than 100 first responders fed and hydrated. The agency said they also had reception centers setup in Andover and North Andover. Anyone interested in helping with the relief can donate online here or send a check to:

The Salvation Army
Attn: Massachusetts EDS
25 Shawmut Rd
Canton, Mass. 02021

- The Lawrence Senior Center at 155 Haverhill St. is asking for donations of non-perishable foods, including: fresh and dried fruits, granola bars, small juice boxes, animal crackers, food for infants, nuts and trail mixes, applesauce, pudding, etc. The Senior Center advises people to enter the city through the north side.

- TD Bank and The United Way have established the Greater Lawrence Relief Fund to help families meet their basic needs and recover from the displacement from their homes and businesses caused by gas explosions. Click here to to donate to the Greater Lawrence Relief Fund.

- The MSPCA Nevins Farm in Methuen, where many pets are being taken care of, is also asking for drop-off donations, including: paper towels, dry and canned cat food, canned dog food and cat litter. Donations can be brought to MSPCA at Nevins Farm at 400 Broadway in Methuen.

- The Boston Red Sox are also collecting to help Merrimack Valley communities. Cash donations will be collected at all Fenway Park gates Saturday, Sept. 15, and Sunday, Sept. 16, from the time gates open through the 2nd inning of the games. Donations collected at Fenway will go to the Lawrence Emergency Fund via the Essex County Community Foundation.

Monday morning

- Governor Baker announced that he and officials from Lawrence, Andover and North Andover are working to set up a disaster relief fund to help those affected by the explosions.

- Electricity is back in most households affected by the explosions, but it could take weeks for gas to be restored.

- Arlington Middle School in Lawrence remains open for those whose homes were destroyed.

Saturday night

- Residents who had been evacuated will be allowed back into their homes Sunday morning, although they are still being instructed to not turn their gas back on themselves if it's still off. Wait for the gas company to arrive. Additonally, if you return home and something doesn't seem right, call your local fire department.

Friday afternoon

- Governor Charlie Baker has declared a state of emergency for the Merrimack Valley.

- Baker also said Eversource is taking the lead in the work being done to stabilize the gas system in the area.

Friday morning

- Officials say all fires have been extinguished.

- Utility companies will be going house-to-house throughout the affected communities to determine if it is safe to restore electricity and gas service.

- Shelters will remain open throughout this process.

- Residents who live on streets on this list are being told to remain evacuated until further notice.

- Even residents who can return home should not turn their gas back on themselves if it's off. Wait for the utility company to arrive.

- The following exits off I-495 remain closed as of this morning: RT 28, RT 114, Mass Ave, and Marston Ave. The ramp from 93 NB/SB to River Rd is also closed.

Thursday night

- Power was being shut off for all three affected communities, even for residents who don't have Columbia Gas.

- Anyone still in the area who smells gas should leave immediately. You should also not use cellphones, home phones, light switches, candles, matches or anything else that could create a spark and ignite the gas.

- As of Thursday night, there is no timetable for when evacuated residents will be able to return to their homes.

- The following places have opened as shelters for any evacuees who need somewhere to go. The final two are MSPCA locations that are also pet-friendly.
Parthum Elementary School- 255 East Haverhill St in Lawrence
Field House at North Andover High School- 430 Osgood St. in North Andover
North Andover High School- 430 Osgood St in North Andover
Andover Cormier Youth Center- 40 Whittier Ct. in Andover
Arlington Street School- 150 Arlington St. in Lawrence 
MSPCA Nevins Farm- 400 Broadway in Methuen. (For those with animals needing care)
MSPCA Angell Medical Center- 350 S. Huntington Ave. in Jamaica Plain (For those with animals needing care)

- Lawrence, North Andover and Andover have all canceled school Friday.

- For more updates, follow the town Twitter accounts for Lawrence, North Andover and Andover.