LAWRENCE (CBS) – Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera is urging residents who remain in their homes to be safe when it comes to using appliances to help them stay warm. “My biggest concern is that people, in an effort to stay at home, will do something to jeopardize their safety,” said Rivera.

He was joined at a press conference with State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey and Lawrence Fire Chief Brian Moriarty who urged residents not to use extension chords that could overload systems, and to keep at least three feet around space heaters so they don’t come in contact with anything combustible.

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Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera (WBZ-TV)

Mayor Rivera also called on Columbia Gas to work right through Thanksgiving to get residents reconnected. “If they don’t take days off they’ll be done sooner and every day sooner is a gift to families who aren’t lit right now,” Rivera said.

Columbia Gas set a new deadline of December 16 to restore gas in the Merrimack Valley including Lawrence, North Andover and Andover. Despite the mayor’s call the utility says it will give workers the holiday saying they have been working around the clock and are ahead of schedule.

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Columbia Gas crews repairing damaged lines in Lawrence Saturday. (WBZ-TV)

Rivera says 54 percent of meters in Lawrence have not yet been reconnected and nearly 1200 families are in a category he calls “at risk” for being among the last residents who will be connected. He urged residents to seek alternative housing available in hotels and RV camps throughout the city. “If a thousand people call tonight to get a hotel room not sure the system can handle all the calls, so call now,” said Rivera.

Lawrence resident Ana Camareno says she can’t bear to leave her home and is nervous about the weeks ahead. “Very frustrated that winter is right here and there’s a storm tomorrow,” said Camareno. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

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Neighbor Elizabeth Santiago says she has extra blankets to keep her warm at night and has lined the windows with plastic to cut down on the drafts. “I don’t want to think about it anymore because I’ll start panicking and crying,” she said.