(SUN PRARIE, WI.)–A firefighter has died from injuries he sustained in an explosion in downtown Sun Prairie Tuesday night. Officials say two other firefighters are in the hospital–one in serious but stable condition, one with minor injuries.
The explosion was followed by an inferno that firefighters were working to put out several hours after the blast.
The Sun Prairie Police Department says around 6:21 p.m. Tuesday, firefighters and police responded to a report of a gas leak. Crews were in the process of evacuating people when there was an explosion at about 7:00 p.m.
People are still evacuated in a five-block radius around the blast site. Officials say the gas has been turned off to the area.
A police officer suffered a minor injury and was not taken to the hospital.
Seven civilians had minor injuries.
Officials say they have done a thorough search, and no one was in the rubble.
The gas leak was contained Tuesday evening, but the fire continued to burn. Sun Prairie Police Lieutenant Kevin Konopacki described it as a residual fire from the ventilation process.
The lieutenant said there was some construction in the area of the explosion.
WE Energies spokeswoman Cathy Schulze says a contractor struck a natural gas main shortly before that explosion.
The Red Cross has set up Patrick Marsh Middle School as a reception center for evacuated residents.
Witnesses reported seeing and feeling the explosion and fires up to a mile away.
Police say at least two businesses sustained major damage, including Glass Nickel Pizza and Barr House.
The lieutenant became emotional during a 10 p.m. news conference when thanking the community for their support, concern and offers of assistance. He called the response from his community “fantastic.”
The American Red Cross and the Salvation Army are helping the evacuees.
(Aaron Harper,WJNR,WOBE, WHTO)