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People line Sun Prairie streets for fallen firefighter

Investigation begins into what caused explosion
Posted at 10:47 PM, Jul 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-12 06:59:41-04

Hundreds of people lined the streets in Sun Prairie for a fallen firefighter Cory Barr, preparing for a procession to the funeral home.  

"We didn't lose a firefighter yesterday, we lost a family member," said Fire Chief Chris Garrison.

Barr died while responding to a gas leak in downtown Sun Prairie Tuesday evening. Authorities say a contractor struck a gas main.

Garrison says when Barr received the call, he went straight to the fire station to help.

"My people went right to work clearing people, making sure people were out of danger," said Garrison.

Barr gave his life in that effort. He died after he was taken to the hospital. Five other firefighters were also transported, one with critical injuries. Garrison said that firefighter's condition was upgraded to stable on Tuesday, and that he was walking around.

In all, fire crews evacuated over 100 people from the downtown area before the explosion rocked the small community.

"All of a sudden, ba boom," said Susan Holmes, whose apartment is very close to the explosion site. "My window comes flying open, I started screaming and panicking. They said 'evacuate immediately' and good thing I did because five minutes after I left, there was another explosion."

Eleven people total were taken to the hospital with injuries, including the five firefighters, one police officer and five civilians.

Now that search and rescue efforts are over, authorities say the investigation has begun into what caused the explosion. Officials would not comment on which company was working in the area and struck the gas line.

Governor Scott Walker toured the damage today, speaking with law enforcement officials and crediting the actions of first responders like Capt. Barr, for the lives they saved.

"It is a tragedy because of his death but he is without a doubt a hero," said Walker. "There's no doubt looking at that site had they not evacuated those people...the tragedy of one would have been far greater."

Residents who live in the immediate area of the explosion site were still not allowed back home as of Tuesday night. Authorities escorted them back earlier in the day in small groups to grab any important items and pets.

Those affected by the explosion are encouraged to call the United Way of Dane County at 2-1-1 to obtain information.