1 Firefighter Dead, 5 Injured After Wisconsin Blast, Blaze - NBC 10 Philadelphia
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1 Firefighter Dead, 5 Injured After Wisconsin Blast, Blaze

Workers for a contractor apparently punctured a 4-inch natural gas main, sending gas leaking into a building ahead of the explosion, according to a gas utility representative

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    NEWSLETTERS

    One firefighter was killed and five others injured when an explosion rocked the downtown area of a suburb of Madison, Wisconsin, Tuesday evening, authorities said.

    Sun Prairie, a community of about 30,000, was shaken by a blast about 7:15 p.m. that sent a large plume of smoke and flames rising from the downtown area filled with bars and other businesses.

    Six firefighters total were taken to area hospitals, according to Sun Prairie police Lt. Kevin Konopacki. One succumbed to his injuries at the hospital, Konopacki said Wednesday morning, while another remained in very critical condition.

    Further details on the firefighter who died, including his identity, were not immediately available.

    Three other firefighters were treated and released, officials said, while another remained in the hospital with minor injuries.

    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.

    Firefighters from Sun Prairie and surrounding communities responded to the scene, where police blocked off the streets from traffic and onlookers.

    The blast about half a block from City Hall appeared to be centered on the Barr House, a pub. 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."