One firefighter died and at least a dozen other people were injured when a natural gas explosion, which started after a contractor punctured a gas line, leveled at least two buildings in Sun Prairie, WI, officials said.
A gas leak in downtown Sun Prairie led to the Tuesday evening explosion, which ignited a fire. Billowing smoke could be seen for miles.
Cory Barr, a captain with the volunteer fire department in Sun Prairie, died after a contractor hit a gas line under the streets of downtown Sun Prairie. He had been with the fire department for 10 years.
Another firefighter suffered injuries in the blast and his condition was later stabilized, said Sun Prairie Police Lt. Kevin Konopacki. Four other firefighters, a police officer and seven civilians were also hurt, Konopacki said.
“The Sun Prairie Fire Department is strong. We will keep on building from this. We are hurt, but we will come back,” Sun Prairie Fire Chief Christopher Garrison said.
WE Energies, which owns the gas line, said workers for a private contractor punctured a 4-inch gas main, causing a leak that resulted in the explosion, said spokeswoman Amy Jahns. The blast rained burning debris on downtown Sun Prairie and set vehicles parked nearby on fire. Authorities evacuated buildings within a half-mile radius from the center of the explosion.
That evacuation area was still in place Wednesday morning, with more than 100 people out of their homes, officials said.
The Red Cross assisted evacuees at a shelter set up at Sun Prairie High School.