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Some Residents Affected by Gas Explosions Learn They Won't Get Space Heaters

Space heaters are being given out across the Merrimack Valley for those who are still without gas, but many in Lawrence, Massachusetts, are finding their homes do not have the electrical capacity to handle them.

Before a space heater can be installed, a team of electricians and contractors have to do an inspection, which includes an electrical assessment. They were out doing many Wednesday in South Lawrence, where homeowners were encountering the same wattage problem.

Workers from MassSave doing the inspections said they are looking for a dedicated 20 amp circuit for the heaters and many older properties do not have one. On top of that, many outdated buildings do not have the space to add one.

One contractor who had been out doing inspections all week said he has only been able to install space heaters at half of the homes he has visited in Lawrence.

When the team is unable to install a space heater, they leave the homeowner with a flyer.

"Your safety is our top priority, and based on the electrical assessment we are not able to install a temporary heater solution for you today," the flyer reads. "Please contact us at Columbia Gas customer service by dialing 866-388-3239so that we can better understand what your needs are."

Jamika Rivera was frustrated to learn after an hour long inspection, her home was not equipped to handle a space heater.

"I don't know how long we're going to be able to survive like this," she said, holding her 14-month-old child. "I guess we'll just have to buy more blankets."

A spokesperson for Columbia Gas said the company is aware of the electrical issue and looking into solutions. The company had originally planned to hand out 24,000 space heaters in the Merrimack Valley. Given the inspections, they were not able to say how many they have been able to successfully install as of Wednesday.

Even if they are not able to give out a heater, the crews doing the inspections are giving out new smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

In addition to the electrical issue, many residents said they are still waiting to hear when inspectors will be coming to their homes and they are confused by the process.

Columbia Gas said residents will need to be home during the inspection and will be contacted the day before with a scheduled appointment time. At one apartment on Newton Street in Lawrence, one tenant had her unit inspected Wednesday. The other 12 were still waiting for Columbia Gas to contact them.

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