LAWRENCE (CBS) – Many people lost their homes in the gas line fires and explosions in the Merrimack Valley, including a Lawrence police officer.
Officer Ivan Soto was working Thursday, responding to the fires, when his own house went up in flames from a gas explosion. Neighbors told WBZ-TV he drove home to make sure his daughter who had been in the house was okay. She went to a neighbor’s home for help. Officer Soto then evacuated all of his neighbors and left his home burning so he could go back on duty. Firefighters were so tied up with the other fires in the city, they couldn’t get to Soto’s house in time to save it.
Neighbors say there was absolutely no warning. No loud bang or smell of gas. Just smoke that turned into flames.
Christel and James Nazario live directly across the street from Officer Ivan Soto. “It just brings gravity to the situation,” James Nazario said.
Nazario says the teen was yelling to call 911. “’We need help! There’s a fire!’ We kept her at our house and got a hold of her parents. It’s just devastating,” Christel Nazario said.
She says they had a hard time getting a hold of anyone and that’s when she realized this wasn’t a single house fire.
Officer Soto was on duty, responding to the very situation that destroyed his home.
Nazario says he pulled up in his cruiser. “He was calm, total response mode. He honestly got all of us out of the house all the neighbors we should be grateful,” she said.
Today fellow Lawrence police officer’s, firefighters, and both National Grid and Eversource crews stopped by the home.
But for Officer Soto, he’s already expressed what matters most. “As far as knowing what was really important in the situation… his family was safe and no one was as seriously affected by what happened,” James Nazario said.
“He’s somebody that everyone should look up to,” Christel Nazario added.
The family says two cats were lost in the fire and the family is staying in a hotel for now.
His wife, Veronica says they are OK, just overwhelmed but appreciate everyone reaching out to help.
A GoFundMe fundraising page has been set up for him and his family, hoping to raise $10,000 for them.
The person who created the page wrote that Soto just became a police officer earlier this year and his wife had just opened her own hair studio. The couple has two teenage daughters.