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UPDATE: Walker offers condolences after fatal Sun Prairie explosion

Updated: 5:36 a.m. on July 12, 2018

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is expressing his condolences to the family of a firefighter killed in a massive natural gas explosion.

Authorities say a contractor ruptured a natural gas line in downtown Sun Prairie on Tuesday evening. The gas somehow ignited, leading to an explosion that leveled half a city block and claimed the life of 34-year-old Sun Prairie Fire Department Capt. Cory Barr. He leaves behind a wife and twin 3-year-old girls.

Walker toured the rubble Wednesday evening and spoke at a news conference in a city park. He offered his love and prayers to Barr's family and children. He also praised firefighters and police who evacuated dozens of people from the area before the explosion.

Sun Prairie police Lt. Kevin Konopacki said authorities are in the midst of an in-depth investigation to determine how the line was ruptured and what sparked the explosion.

Sun Prairie is about 15 miles (24 kilometers) east of the state Capitol building in Madison.

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SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The entire Sun Prairie community is now mourning the loss of Fire Captain Cory Barr. He was 34-years old, a husband and a father who grew up in Sun Prairie.

“I woke up to immediately see of his passing which is hard,” Marta Hansen, owner of The Piano Gal Shop, said through tears.
Her brother, Alex, grew up with Barr. She says their friendship was like “The Sandlot” and together the boys would pull pranks.

Barr lost his life Tuesday evening while responding to a natural gas leak that led to an explosion in Downtown Sun Prairie.
Like Hansen, Barr was a business-owner and operated The Barr House with his wife Abby.

The business was severely damaged from the explosion, along with four other buildings in Downtown Sun Prairie.
“They’ve lost not only their business,” Hansen said. “But their husband and father.’

Barr is the father of twin girls who just turned three.

“Cory was a very giving, caring person, and a family man and if anyone represents Sun Prairie, who loves Sun Prairie, and gives back to the community it was him,” Hansen said.

The Sun Prairie Fire Department now grieving the loss of one of their own. The American Legion Post 333 recently recognized Barr as Sun Prairie Firefighter of the year.

“The Sun Prairie Fire Department is strong and we will keep on building from this,” Sun Prairie Fire Chief, Christopher Garrison, said. “We are hurt but we will come back.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help the Barr family. 
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Updated: 3:45 p.m. on July 11, 2018

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (CBS 58/AP) — The wife of a Wisconsin firefighter killed in a gas explosion says she couldn't have asked for a better husband.

Sun Prairie Fire Department Capt. Cory Barr was killed Tuesday when a natural gas explosion leveled most of a city block, including the tavern Barr owned.

His wife, Abby Barr, released a statement to The Associated Press on Wednesday afternoon saying he had been a firefighter for 15 years and was the "best husband a girl could ask for."

She says he lived his life by the motto "happy wife, happy life." The couple was raising a pair of twin girls who just turned 3. She says the girls would run up to him screaming "Daddy's home!" whenever he walked through the door.

Sun Prairie Police released a statement saying several areas are still inaccessible. They include:

Main St between Jones and Market St
South St in its entirety
W Lane St in its entirety
E Lane St in its entirety
S Bristol St in its entirety
N Bristol St From Cliff St south
Angell St in its entirety
Columbus St from Main to Church
Church St in its entirety

Vine St is NOT clear yet; however they are working on it.

Police say residences and businesses within those areas will remain evacuated. Authorities say those who need access to their homes and apartments within these areas to grab medications or to retrieve pets they can meet Police and Fire at the intersection of CHURCH ST and ANGELL ST (by the city hall parking lot) for an attempt to access their property.

Police say We Energies is putting a red flag with a white X on it over the doors. Residents that find this need to call We Energies to get the OK to enter.

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Updated: 11:44 a.m. on July 11, 2018

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (CBS 58/AP) — Firefighters are doing a secondary search of buildings damaged in a fatal explosion and fire in the southern Wisconsin community of Sun Prairie, although officials say they have no reports of any missing people.

The Madison Fire Department's Heavy Urban Rescue Team is also evaluating the structural integrity of the damaged downtown buildings. One of the five buildings that sustained significant damage was owned by the firefighter who was killed in the explosion and fire.

The Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin on Wednesday identified Cory Barr as the firefighter who was killed.

The Sun Prairie Police Department says people who were evacuated within a-half mile radius of the explosion are being allowed back in their homes once they have been cleared by a representative of We Energies. The utility says a contractor punctured a natural gas line in downtown Sun Prairie on Tuesday evening, leading to an explosion and ensuing fire that damaged at least five buildings, including the Barr House, which Barr owned.

Patrick DePula owns a restaurant just down the street from the Barr House. He said he's known Barr for several years. He said Barr was very proud of Sun Prairie and wanted to both preserve the city and transform it into a travel destination.

Sun Prairie is a suburb of the state capital of Madison.

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Updated: 10:03 a.m. on July 11, 2018

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (CBS 58/AP) -- Police say an initial sweep found no new victims in the buildings damaged by a fatal explosion and fire in the southern Wisconsin community of Sun Prairie.

Sun Prairie police Lt. Kevin Konopacki says there have been no reports of people missing following the gas leak and explosion blast Tuesday evening that killed a firefighter and injured more than a dozen other people.

Officials say at least five structures were damaged. Authorities have cordoned off a half mile (0.8 kilometer) radius from the blast zone downtown. According to an update from the Sun Prairie Police Department, residents have been allowed back into the following areas:

Flint St., Union St., Jones St., North St., Kroncke Dr., Linnerud Dr. east of Market St., Cannery Square, Cannery Place, Main St. east of Market St., Chase Blvd., Dewey St., and Hill St.

We Energies has said a private contractor struck a natural gas main, causing a leak. The explosion and fire followed about half an hour later, raining fiery debris on downtown streets, igniting vehicles and sending a plume of smoke into the air that could be seen for miles.

The Salvation Army of Dane County Emergency Disaster Team is helping neighbors in the area. 

Sun Prairie Relief Efforts - Stephanie Gander Sun Prairie Relief Efforts - Stephanie Gander Sun Prairie Relief Efforts - Stephanie Gander Sun Prairie Relief Efforts - Stephanie Gander

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Updated: 5:39 a.m. on July 11, 2018

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (CBS 58/AP) -- A firefighter died following the explosion Tuesday in Sun Prairie. 

Fire officials say the firefighter who passed away was a veteran of the department. 

Authorities say six other firefighters were taken to the hospital, two are still admitted. One is in good condition and the other is in stable condition.

During a press conference on Wednesday morning, police said an officer and seven people were also taken to the hospital with injuries but have been released.

A private contractor struck a natural gas main Tuesday evening. Firefighters arrived to investigate the leak and cordon off the area. The buildings exploded a short time later raining debris in the downtown area. The fire resulting from the explosion ignited some cars parked in the area.

Authorities say the fire is contained but is not out at this time. There is still a half-mile evacuation perimeter set up around the area near the explosion in downtown Sun Prairie. Four buildings sustained significant damage.

17 area fire departments responded to the scene. 

Local law enforcement agencies and Governor Walker are expressing their condolences to the Sun Prairie Fire Department. 

Stay with CBS 58 on-air and online for updates on this developing story.

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Updated: 5:00 a.m. on July 11, 2018

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (AP) -- Police in a suburb of Madison, Wisconsin, are lowering the number of people taken to a hospital following a powerful explosion.

They originally said one police officer and two firefighters were taken to a hospital following the explosion Tuesday evening in downtown Sun Prairie that came after a contractor reportedly struck a natural gas line. Lt. Kevin Konopacki now says the officer was treated at the scene.

Konopacki also says some civilians were treated for minor injuries, but none were taken to hospitals. He didn't have an exact number.
No deaths have been reported, but Konopacki says damaged buildings will be searched after flames have been extinguished.

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Posted: 8:27 p.m. on July 10, 2018

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (AP) — An explosion rocked the downtown area of a suburb of Madison, Wisconsin, after a contractor struck a natural gas main Monday, injuring at least two firefighters and a police officer, authorities said.

No deaths were immediately reported, and it wasn't known if anyone else was hurt.

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 and officer were taken to a hospital. He said he didn't know if anyone else was hurt.

WE Energies spokeswoman Cathy Schulze said the gas main strike was reported to the utility early Monday evening ahead of the explosion. She said the utility's first responders were in the area working to shut off the flow of gas and make the area safe.

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 five-block 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.

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