Merrimack Valley Residents Slow to Get Space Heaters After Explosions

Officials started distributing space heaters and hot plates to thousands of residents in the Merrimack Valley after a series of explosions and fires left them without natural gas, but not every home has them yet despite the falling temperatures.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker had said the space heaters would be sent to homes by electricians to assure the devices were installed safely.

However, authorities say homes must pass inspections first, forcing many families to sleep in winter clothes as fall temperatures dip into the 50s.

Arsenio Ramos of Lawrence said he slept under his American Red Cross blanket, a sweatshirt and jacket Monday night.

"It wasn't comfortable at all," Ramos said.

Ramos said he lives in the home with his 84-year-old grandfather.

"Oh my God... I need heat," he said.

The space heaters are being distributed by the National Guard at the Columbia Gas resource claim center in Lawrence, where Theresa Graf waited for hers in a winter hat and scarf. She arrived an hour early, hoping to score a device to keep warm.

"It's hard for everybody, but when you're older, it affects you more, you know? Walking around your own house with hats and coats, it's ridiculous," said the North Andover resident.

Graf ended up leaving the claim center and was told instead she needed to set up an appointment.

Back at the Ramos home, they're not sure if they will even qualify to get a heater.

"We're going through a lot right now. Hopefully they work faster. Hopefully they work harder so this won't happen ever," Ramos said.

Columbia Gas officials said if a home is deemed safe for a space heater, it will receive one only.

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