An explosion caused by a gas line break rocked downtown Sun Prairie on Tuesday night, leveling buildings, injuring several people and forcing the evacuation of residents.
Two firefighters were taken to a hospital and one police officer was treated at the scene, but no deaths were reported. A couple of civilians suffered minor injuries. The conditions of the firefighters were not released.
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 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 firefighters arrived to investigate the source of the leak and close off the area, the buildings exploded.
By 10 p.m. authorities increased the evacuation area from five blocks surrounding the explosion and fires to half a mile. The only exceptions were senior assisted living centers where residents were sheltering in place, Konopacki said.
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 (Channel 15) they could feel their houses shake during the explosion.
Milwaukee station Fox 6 posted incredible drone footage of the explosion aftermath and fires.
Authorities initially blocked off five blocks as rescue crews and firefighters looked for the injured and put out the blaze. 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. Crews were still on the scene at 10:30 p.m.
Konopacki said at 10 p.m. authorities were trying to determine when people could return to their homes.
The Red Cross set up a reception area for evacuees at Sun Prairie High School.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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