The Lawerence, Mass Fires

My first thought on hearing of the outbreak of fires and explosions in Lawrence and Andover Mass was to wonder how many people living in or near these homes are having PTSD reactions right now. You may not remember this, or even know about it, but back in 1991 and 1992, when I was working in Lawrence and Andover and other New England locations doing archaeology, there was an amazing spate of arson attacks in the area. There were over 200 fires set in the city, many of old historic mills that burned to the ground. The people of Lawrence were truly traumatized by this. The cops arrested two people and charged them with several counts, but I don’t think they were ever determined to have been responsible. I don’t recall this spate of crimes ever being solved.

My second thought was, could this be the energy infrastructure Russian FSB/GRU attack that we were warned of?

It seemed early on that the gas fires in Lawrence were caused by large increase in pressure on the gas lines. The pressure in the gas lines going into your house is set to be just above atmospheric pressure, while the pressure in gas delivery lines can be very much higher. There are devices that down regulate the pressure as it gets nearer your house, and the lines in your neighborhood that feed individual buildings have the lower pressure. The main natural gas “transmission” lines have sensors that measure pressure, and computer systems that regulate pressure. There have been cases in the past (not necessarily in the US) where malicious code was used to blow up gas lines by changing the pressure. Interestingly, an instance of computers going wrong (which may or may not have been a cyber attack) caused the largest non-nuclear explosion ever, on the Trans-Siberian pipeline.

Most likely the Lawrence gas explosion involved something going wrong with pressure, and most likely that was something wrong with a valve (or human error, or whatever). But, given that we (Americans) were warned that the energy infrastructure had already been hacked by Russian agents (not regular people who are Russians, but by bad guy Russians working for bad guy Putin) …. well, somebody really should look into that. Just to be sure.

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5 thoughts on “The Lawerence, Mass Fires

  1. There have been cases in the past (not necessarily in the US) where malicious code was used to blow up gas lines by changing the pressure.

    Is that a side reference to the story about the CIA “booby-trapping” code used to control gas pipeline plants, planting it so the Soviets could steal it, with the result being an explosion at a Siberian pipeline installation?

    I heard that story in grad school, and heard both that it was and wasn’t true. Thoughts?

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