Firefighter Killed, Portions of Downtown Leveled in Explosion

Sun Prairie, Wis., explosion happened after construction workers punctured natural gas line
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 11, 2018 4:31 PM CDT
Massive Explosion Kills Firefighter, Levels Portions of Downtown
Firefighters work the scene of an explosion in downtown Sun Prairie, Wis., Tuesday, July 10, 2018. The explosion rocked the downtown area of Sun Prairie, a suburb of Madison, after a contractor struck a natural gas main Monday, sending an unknown number of people to hospitals, authorities said.   (Amber Arnold/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

A massive natural gas explosion killed a firefighter and leveled portions of a city block in a southern Wisconsin community, including a bar the firefighter owned, authorities said Wednesday. The blast in downtown Sun Prairie on Tuesday evening also injured at least a dozen people and left residents of the Madison suburb wondering how they'll put their downtown back together, the AP reports. "It's just hard to look at the pictures and see what our city looks like now," resident Erin Updike said. The blast happened after police got a call at 6:30pm that construction workers working on a downtown street had punctured a WE Energies natural gas line. Police and firefighters arrived to investigate and were evacuating the area when the gas exploded shortly after 7pm. The blast ignited four-story high flames that burned long into the night and belched a smoke plume visible for miles.

Sun Prairie Fire Department Capt. Cory Barr was killed in the blast, said Mahlon Mitchell, president of the state firefighters union. Barr had been with the department for 15 years, his wife, Abby Barr, said in a statement. He also worked as a real estate agent and owned the Barr House, a tavern destroyed in the explosion. "The Sun Prairie Fire Department is strong. We will keep on building from this. We are hurt, but we will come back," Fire Chief Christopher Garrison said. Five other firefighters, a police officer and at least six civilians were hurt, according to Sun Prairie police Lt. Kevin Konopacki. One of the firefighters was critically injured and remained hospitalized Wednesday, Konopacki said. At least five buildings were damaged, including the Barr House, Glass Nickel Pizza and a steak restaurant, according to a news release on the city's website.

(Read more explosion stories.)

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