The natural gas fires and explosions that swept through three communities in the Merrimack Valley region of Massachusetts in September 2018 struck quickly and without warning, inflicting an estimated $1 billion in damage and causing the death of one young man, after a brick chimney collapsed onto the vehicle he was in.
Still, from an incident management standpoint, the Merrimack Valley gas fires represent a success story.
Robust mutual aid and incident command systems lessened the blow of what would have otherwise been a far more "catastrophic" incident, NFPA's Bob Duval says in a new video about the fires. Without such systems, he says, first responders from the three communities "wouldn't have been able to manage assets, moving them, relocating them, bringing them in to where they were needed."
Duval, fire investigator and northeast regional director for NFPA, also penned a feature article on the incident and how it represents a success from an incident management standpoint titled, "Big Assist," the cover story of the July/August 2019 issue of NFPA Journal.
The article includes the jaw-dropping statistics related to how many departments responded to the incident, where they came from, and what assets they provided. "From September 13–16, mutual aid fire resources were drawn from Massachusetts (246 assets from 199 communities); New Hampshire (92 assets); and Maine (one asset)," the article reads. "More than 200 communities and law enforcement agencies would eventually commit resources to the area. Assets included 180 engines, 68 ladders, and 50 command vehicles. Hundreds of fire, emergency, law enforcement, and gas utility personnel responded to hundreds of calls in the affected communities."
Read more at nfpa.org/big_assist.