A natural gas explosion devastated a block in downtown Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, Tuesday night, injuring several people and killing one firefighter.
Authorities were evacuating workers, business patrons, and residents from buildings near Sun Prairie’s City Hall when the blast occurred around 7:15 p.m. The evacuations came in response to reports that a contractor struck a four-inch natural gas main line, causing a building in the area to fill with gas.
Buildings housing the Barr House, which is a pub at 100 West Main St., and Glass Nickel Pizza at 101 West Main were reportedly destroyed by the gas explosion. Several other adjacent buildings also sustained heavy damage.
The Wisconsin State Journal reports that the blast injured seven civilians, six firefighters, and one police officer. Sun Prairie Fire Chief Christopher Garrison confirmed that a firefighter veteran of more than 10 years had died while responding to the explosion. Two other firefighters were admitted to the hospital, including one in critical condition.
Residents and pets within a half mile of the epicenter were evacuated and a shelter was set up at Sun Prairie United Methodist church. Some residents were able to return to their homes Wednesday as roads were gradually reopened to traffic, but a large area of downtown Sun Prairie remains off limits.
Sun Prairie is a city of about 30,000 people situated just northeast of Wisconsin’s capital city Madison.
“WE Energies spokeswoman Amy Jahns said workers for a contractor apparently punctured a 4-inch natural gas main, sending gas leaking into a building ahead of the explosion. All 12 gas lines in the area were shut off by about 9:30 p.m.,” NBC News reported.
Authorities said the death and injury toll would have been a lot worse had the affected buildings not been evacuated several minutes before the explosion.