Photo Courtesy: Ryan Lobenstein
SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (AP) - An explosion rocked the downtown area of a suburb of Madison, Wisconsin, after a contractor struck a natural gas main Tuesday, injuring two firefighters and a police officer, authorities said.
Police Lt. Kevin Konopacki said that around 6:20 p.m., firefighters and police responded to a reported gas leak in downtown Sun Prairie, a community of about 30,000. Witnesses reported the powerful blast about 7:15 p.m. It sent a plume of smoke and flames into the air.
Konopacki said the firefighters were taken to a hospital, while the officer was treated at the scene. He said some civilians suffered minor injuries, but none required hospitalization. He didn't have an exact number.
No deaths were reported, but Konopacki said buildings would be searched once the flames were out. Firefighters were still battling flames more than three hours after the blast.
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.
Konopacki said authorities were evacuating the area when the explosion occurred, likely saving lives.
All 12 gas lines in the area were shut off by about 9:30 p.m.
The blast appeared to be centered on the Barr House, a pub in an area filled with other bars, restaurants and businesses. Authorities evacuated a half-mile radius and set up a shelter at Sun Prairie High School.
Steve Owen, 60, who owns Sun City Cyclery and Skates in downtown Sun Prairie, said he saw firefighters and police officers on the street and then the explosion happened. He said the building across from his shop "literally lifted up."
He said the force of the blast knocked him back in his chair and that he ran outside and saw a ball of fire.
"People were scrambling," said Owen, who lives above his shop.
Jill Thompson, 56, who lives about two blocks from where the blast occurred, said, "It shook the whole building. I thought someone had hit the building with their vehicle. We seen the smoke immediately."
The area is about half a block from City Hall.
This story has been corrected to show that the explosion occurred Tuesday, not Monday.