MILWAUKEE – A firefighter responding to an explosion caused by a gas line break that rocked downtown Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, on Tuesday night has died, authorities said at an early morning news conference.
The blast leveled several buildings. Two firefighters were taken to a hospital and one police officer was treated at the scene. One of the firefighters later died and another is in critical condition.
A couple of civilians suffered minor injuries.
A contractor struck a natural gas main shortly before the explosion rocked the Madison suburb of around 30,000 people.
We Energies spokeswoman Cathy Schulze said the utility’s first responders were in downtown Sun Prairie working to shut off the flow of gas and make the area safe.
Crews were called at 6:21 p.m. for a report of a natural gas leak at the corner of Main and Bristol streets, said Sun Prairie Police spokesman Lt. Kevin Konopacki. After police and the fire department arrived to investigate the source of the leak and close off the area, the buildings exploded.
A plume of smoke shot into the sky as debris rained down and cars parked nearby ignited. Sun Prairie tavern the Barr House and Glass Nickel Pizza were heavily damaged. Photos show blown-apart buildings with splinters and debris littering the street. Several cars were in flames.
At 9 p.m., Konopacki spoke to reporters as black smoke continued to curl up behind him into the sky. The odor of gas could still be smelled three hours after the explosion.
Residents told Madison TV station WMTV-TV they could feel their houses shake during the explosion.
Milwaukee station Fox 6 posted incredible drone footage of the explosion aftermath and fires.
Authorities blocked off five blocks as rescue crews and firefighters looked for the injured and put out the blaze. Residents within several blocks of the explosion were evacuated and motorists were diverted from the area.
Schulze said a 4-inch gas main was struck by a contractor, which caused the gas leak. She did not know the name of the contractor or what kind of work was being done. Natural gas was cut off to around 500 customers, Schulze said.