Veteran firefighter killed in Wisconsin explosion identified

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No deaths were immediately reported.

The blast, which reportedly could be felt a mile away from downtown Sun Prairie, happened around 7 p.m. Tuesday after a private contractor hit a natural gas main, officials said early Wednesday during a news conference.

Sun Prairie Fire Chief Christopher Garrison said Barr had served more than 10 years with the department. Hundreds of residents were displaced from their home and found shelter at area schools and churches. "Our house shook", said Kim Sergenian, who lives in Sun Prairie.

"We were told that a contractor did strike one of our natural gas mains", said Amy Jahns, spokesperson for We Energies.

Another firefighter suffered critical injuries after fire crews arrived to investigate a gas leak in downtown Sun Prairie about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and several buildings exploded, ignited a fire that sent billowing smoke that could be seen for miles around. It took about two hours before workers were able to get close enough to the scene of the blast to shut off gas lines to the area, Schulze said.

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Police have blocked off downtown streets from traffic and onlookers.

Multiple videos from the area show that the explosion turned a section of Sun Prairie into a smoldering, burning hazard area. The area has several businesses including bars and restaurants.

A local reporter said: "I can see the smoke from the near East side of Madison". Steve Owen, a small business owner, told reporters what he saw when firefighters and police officers started to mobilize, and he also recalled that the building across the street from his shop was "literally lifted up" by a fireball.

"People were scrambling", said Owen, who lives above his shop.

He said the force knocked him back in his chair and that he ran outside and saw a ball of fire.

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