Entire neighbourhoods were forced to evacuate as crews scrambled to fight the blazes and turn off gas and electricity lines to prevent further damage.
Massachusetts State Police urged all residents with homes serviced by Columbia Gas in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover to leave their properties on Thursday afternoon (local time).
A man whose neighbourhood was among dozens that erupted in fire said he ran into his basement to find the room was glowing.
Ra Nam, a Lawrence resident, said he was in his yard when the smoke detector in his basement went off about 4:30pm.
When he ran downstairs and saw the boiler on fire, he quickly grabbed a fire extinguisher and put it out.
Minutes later, Mr Nam said he heard a loud boom from his neighbour’s house and the ground shook.
He said a woman and two kids had made it out of the house but the basement was on fire…