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‘Doing the best we can:’ Community steps up to support those impacted by Sun Prairie explosion

SUN PRAIRIE -- Almost immediately after a natural gas explosion rocked Sun Prairie Tuesday evening, July 10, neighbors started reaching out to help.

"You never expect it to happen in your community," said Josh Netz, Prairie Diner owner.

The blast happened after police got a call at 6:30 p.m. that construction workers working on a downtown street had punctured a WE Energies natural gas line. Police and firefighters arrived to investigate and were evacuating the area when the gas exploded shortly after 7 p.m. The blast ignited four-story high flames that burned long into the night and belched a smoke plume visible for miles.

A veteran firefighter and business owner was killed, and portions of a city block were leveled, including a bar Captain Cory Barr owned, the Barr House. The blast also injured at least a dozen people and left residents of the Madison suburb wondering how they'll put their downtown back together.

"We will mourn for that firefighter and his family," said Netz.

The Prairie Diner sits near the highway. Netz said Wednesday he'd been thinking about everything happening downtown.

"We got the call around 7 that some of the aid workers were going to need some breakfast food. Tried to get them the food around 9," said Netz.

In addition to serving the morning rush, Netz and his small staff made breakfast for police, firefighters and other relief workers stationed throughout town -- but they didn't do it alone.

"We're a small place, so we didn't have enough stuff on hand to do it, so I believe Costco donated the actual food and then they brought it to us and we got it prepared as fast as we could," said Netz.

Josh Netz

Additional volunteers picked up the food and delivered it to the several emergency shelters set up in town.

"Everyone supports one another, knows each other, so we've got hearts going out to families, prayers, churches getting involved. We're doing the best we can," said Netz.

Prairie Diner, Costco and Culver's are just a few names we've been told stepped up to help where they can.

Salvation Army officials released photos showing some of the outpouring of support in the hours following the blast. They said the Salvation Army of Dane County's Emergency Disaster Services response team was assisting in relief efforts.

They said the Sun Prairie community managed to come together to provide hydration, food and other provisions for first responders and those affected by the disaster, noting that a pallet-and-a-half of bottled water, coolers of Gatorade, and innumerable snacks were rendered unto the Salvation Army through the goodwill and quick response of Sun Prairie neighbors.

Salvation Army officials said a Sun Prairie woman brought five coolers for the team’s melting ice and asked “what else do you need?”

“I am immensely overwhelmed and grateful for the amount of support the community was able to provide and I cannot begin to say ‘thank you’ enough," said Captain Andrew Shiels of the Salvation Army in a news release.

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