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Hundreds of Wisconsin communities are served by volunteer fire departments, made up of farmers, teachers and main street business owners who rush to serve their neighbors without sufficient recognition. Until a tragedy occurs.

Then we pause to recognize the personal sacrifices, and the great courage, of people like Sun Prairie Volunteer Fire Department Capt. Cory Barr, 34 years old and a 15-year veteran on the volunteer crew, who died last week after responding to reports of a natural gas leak in downtown Sun Prairie. Barr, a proud husband and father who ran the Barr House restaurant and bar in Sun Prairie, jumped into action when the call came — as volunteer firefighters do, at all hours, at all times of the year and in all kinds of dangerous circumstances.

Shortly after a contractor breached a gas main, firefighters arrived on the scene to investigate the source of the leak and evacuate the area. A devastating blast occurred, injuring a half dozen firefighters, a police officer and as many as seven civilians. Several buildings were leveled and Barr was knocked to the ground under a pile of rubble.

Despite the best efforts of Sun Prairie EMS personnel, Barr succumbed to his injuries and the community lost one of its finest members.

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Cory Barr cannot be replaced. But his memory can be honored. The Barr House, which he owned with his wife Abby, was among the leveled buildings. There has already been a huge outpouring of support for a GoFundMe benefit for his family (, and we hope it continues. We also hope that people in Sun Prairie and beyond will pause to recognize the crucial role that volunteer firefighters play in keeping our communities safe and strong.

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