Explosion levels buildings in Wisconsin town

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Konopacki says firefighters and police responded to a reported gas leak about 6:20 p.m. Witnesses reported the explosion about 7:15 p.m.

An explosion rocked the downtown area of a suburb of Madison, Wisconsin, after a contractor struck a natural gas main Tuesday, injuring at least two firefighters and a police officer, authorities said. The blast destroyed several buildings and ignited a fire that belched a plume of ink-black smoke that could be seen for miles. WE Energies did not provide the name of the contractor. Some residents said they felt the blast inside their homes. The explosion occurred shortly afterward.

WE Energies spokeswoman Cathy Schulze says the utility's first responders are in downtown Sun Prairie working to shut off the flow of gas and make the area safe.

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"It was a very complex situation", she said. The blaze took at least three hours to put out, and by the end of it, a firefighter was killed while several others were reportedly hospitalized.

Fire crews worked into the evening and flames could still be seen from Sun Prairie High School, almost one mile away just before midnight. We will keep on building from this. The benefit account was started by the family's church in Sun Prairie. "We are hurt, but we will come back", Garrison said.

Authorities evacuated a half-mile radius around the center of the explosion.

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Fires are still burning after a massive gas line explosion in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. 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.

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

The firefighter who was critically injured has been stabilized, Konopacki said.

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"It shook the whole building", Thompson said.

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