Essex County

Lawrence firefighter remembers moment he helped dozens of neighbors during 2018 gas explosions

LAWRENCE, Mass. — Lawrence Fire Lt. Dave Amero was off duty, mowing the lawn near his Cabot Road home on September 13, 2018, when his wife told him she smelled gas in the house.

Minutes later, homes across the Merrimack Valley began exploding and bursting into flames.

“We’ve trained for gas emergencies but we’ve never expected to have anything like that,” Amero said.

Amero, a 20-year veteran of the Lawrence Fire Dept., lived around the corner from 36 Chickering Road where 18-year-old Leonel Rondon was killed by a falling chimney. Amero said the damage to that home terrified his daughter.

“I never want to see the look on my daughter’s face when that explosion happened. [It was] sheer horror. I never ever want to see that look again,” he said.

Amero soon jumped into action. Armed with a wrench from a nearby fire engine, Amero ran through his neighborhood and began shutting off his neighbor’s gas lines. Boston 25 News Chief Photographer Adam Libertore followed him for several minutes, documenting his heroic deed.

“As I’m running I’m like, ‘Should I be running on the lawn or in the middle of the street?’ because that’s where the gas lines are. I didn’t even know where it was safe to be running,” Amero said.

Amero estimates he shut off the gas to 50 or 60 houses on four or five different streets. He ran from home to home for around 45 minutes.

“When you’re in the heat of it you put everything aside and just do your job. I wasn’t scared, maybe a little nervous,” Amero said.

Patrick Sweeney was one of many firefighters who gave Amero a well-deserved pat on the back.

“You look up to a guy like that. What Dave did was above the call of duty. He just acted right away,” said Sweeney in 2018.

The Merrimack Valley gas explosions damaged dozens of homes and caused more than a billion dollars in damage throughout Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence. Amero’s selfless act was a ray of light on a dark day, reminding us of what first responders — and good neighbors — are capable of.

“I just kept going. I just wanted to do what I could do,” Amero said. “I consider that to be doing my job. On duty or off duty, that’s just my job.”

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