Sun Prairie first responders reflect on one year since deadly explosion

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SUN PRAIRIE (WKOW) — Several first responders are looking back at the moments before and after the July 10, 2018 explosion.

“You could hear the gas gushing,” said Sun Prairie Police Sergeant Ray Thompson, who was enjoying dinner with his wife, when the report a gas leak at Main and Bristol streets came in.

“I left my squad behind the restaurant and walked down here to investigate,” said Sgt. Thompson, who realized the breadth of the gas leak. “You could actually see the ripples, it almost looked like heat coming out from the ground.”

Sgt. Thompson, along with other first responders, quickly began getting people out of the bustling area.

“You started with the inner circle and…we worked farther away,” Sgt. Thompson said.

Less than an hour later, the Barr House exploded.

“I ducked behind a car,” said Sgt. Thompson. “It was like it was raining…that’s when I felt that I got hit by something.”

Sgt. Thompson says a brick hit his right arm, which eventually sent him to the hospital.

Down the block, Fire Chief Christopher Garrison was looking for two of his own.

“We were concerned about of course Cory [Barr] and Ryan [Welch],” said Chief Garrison.

Firefighters know their colleagues and friends were seriously injured. But, Chief Garrison says they kept working.

“I don’t think anybody turned around, folded, and stopped doing what they were supposed to be doing,” Chief Garrison said.

Sun Prairie Lieutenant Kevin Konopacki recalls the steam of people who came to help moments after the explosion.

“They said here’s some water, here’s some food, can we help with the evacuation?,” said Lt. Konopacki. “The impact of the people in this community that wanted to help out, it’s something that’ll never leave me and i’ll never forget.”

One year later, first responders are proud of their work that night.

“You lose so much, but you could have lost so much more,” said Chief Garrison.

Meanwhile, Sgt. Thompson remains proud of his officers that night.

“That really reaffirmed that anything can happen anywhere and that we always have to continue to be prepared.”

Thanks to first responders, about 115 people got out before the explosion.

Nick Buffo

Nick Buffo

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