Police officer loses home, finds his family safe, goes back to help others during gas explosions

LAWRENCE, Mass. — While a Lawrence police officer was making sure his community was safe on Thursday as gas explosions were happening throughout the area, his own home went up in flames.

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Officer Ivan Soto saw his own home get engulfed in the fire but said once he knew his family was safe, he went right back to work.

"We didn't know how many more houses were gonna blow up," Soto told Boston 25 News. "I knew my family was OK, so as long as they were OK, I wanted to make sure everyone else's family was OK."

One of Soto's daughters was home from school when she heard the explosion and saw smoke filling the basement.

"While I'm on the phone with her, she panicked because she felt the explosion," Veronica Soto, Ivan Soto's wife, said.

The daughter escaped the fire, but sadly, the family lost their two cats.

"We lost everything material, which can be replaced," Veronica Soto said. "We did lose our fur babies, which that, that’s the hardest part."

Neighbors created a GoFundMe for the Soto family, raising more than $55,000.

While Ivan Soto's house was burning to the ground, he was out trying to help other families.

He was one of the first responders who tried to save 18-year-old victim Leonel Rondon, who died after getting stuck under a chimney when a house exploded.

"We jumped on the car, and we were trying to pull the chimney," Ivan Soto said. "We just want to get it off of him, you know. We wanted to save him."

The teen died at the hospital, and while Ivan Soto appreciates the donations and support coming in for his family after losing their home, he hopes the community shares the love and helps the teen's family after the tragic death.

"I just wanna make sure that Leo's family is taken care of, too, and people can donate," he said.

Soto said he's going to share a GoFundMe for the Rondon family after the death.