An independent contractor struck a natural gas line, resulting in an explosion that leveled several buildings in downtown Sun Prairie, in suburban Madison, in Wisconsin. At least one firefighter was killed and another remains in critical condition.
As The Chicago Tribune reports, at about 6:30 p.m. Central Time (7:30 p.m. Eastern Time) Tuesday evening, an accident caused a gas leak at a downtown Sun Prairie business. Police and firefighters were dispatched to the scene. A short time later, the buildup of gas exploded.
WE Energies spokeswoman Amy Jahns confirmed that a it was a private contractor who inadvertently punctured the four-inch gas line.
So powerful was the explosion that it completely leveled two businesses, identified by WISC-TV (Madison) as Barr House and Glass Nickel Pizza. Multiple other buildings in the area suffered damage, either from the blast itself or from debris that rained down upon downtown Sun Prairie.
Nearby business owner Steve Owen, 60, who owns a cycling and skate shop, said that the explosion literally lifted up the building across from his. Owen, for his part, was knocked out of his chair by the force of the blast. Like other business owners, customers, and residents of the area, he ran away as fast as he could.
“People were scrambling.”
Area resident Jill Thompson, 56, who lives just a short distance away from the explosion, felt it shake her building.
“I thought someone had hit the building with their vehicle.”
Police evacuated the area, to include everything within a half-mile radius of the blast site. Those evacuated were sent to nearby Sun Prairie High School, where they were attended to by the Red Cross.
Meanwhile, summer school classes at the high school are canceled until further notice.
Unfortunately, the explosion did more than just damage buildings. One firefighter was killed in the explosion, and he’s been identified by The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as Cory Barr, who also owned the Barr House, which was destroyed in the explosion.
Family friend Heidi Dunn is devastated.
“He was just an incredibly genuine and kind and giving person — you could tell by what the did. He worked as a fireman, he owned the bar and obviously helped people through real estate — so he was always willing to help people in any way.”
Another firefighter was critically injured in the explosion. However, according to Sun Prairie Police Lt. Kevin Konopacki, he has been stabilized. The incident also injured several police officers, none of them seriously.