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Resource center still looking for families displaced after Sun Prairie explosion

Resource center still looking for families displaced after Sun Prairie explosion

From the Sun Prairie explosion: Read the original reports about the 2018 blast that killed firefighter, damaged downtown series
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A Sun Prairie community resource center is still looking for families who need help in the wake of last week’s explosion downtown.

The Sunshine Place is specifically looking for families whose homes or apartments were affected by or destroyed in the blast and need temporary housing.

As of Friday, the group had met with and helped 22 families, but the organization said it believes there are as many as 51 displaced families, executive director Joanna Cervantes said.

At about 6:30 p.m. on July 10, a contractor hit a gas line in downtown Sun Prairie, causing an explosion about 40 minutes later that killed a firefighter and destroyed six buildings.

Calls to 911 released by officials Tuesday show that a construction worker called to warn he could smell and hear a leak from a broken gas main just before the explosion.

The worker told the dispatcher, “it’s bad,” after explaining a main had been struck.

The explosion killed volunteer firefighter Cory Barr, severely injured firefighter Ryan Welch and left several others with minor injuries. The blast also destroyed several buildings, including the Barr House bar, owned by Barr and his wife, Abby, at 100 W. Main St.

Dispatchers received more than two dozen calls on the night of the explosion. Another caller said there was smoke coming from a house that looked like it had blown up.

Many of the families affected by the explosion received immediate assistance from multiple agencies, nonprofits and businesses. While the temporary assistance is helpful, the Sunshine Place is looking to provide longer-term solutions, Cervantes said.

Through contributions to the Sun Prairie Disaster Relief Fund, Sunshine Place is able to help affected families with security deposits and first month’s rent at a new location.

The Sun Prairie Culver’s also raised $20,440 for the Barr and Welch families Tuesday. The money represented 50 percent of the day’s sales at the restaurant, plus $2,585 from loose change canisters, restaurant owner Duane Sprecher said.

Though Sunshine Place has received emergency supplies such as food and clothing, the group is now asking that people hold the items they want to donate until all families have access to stable housing.

Residents looking to contact Sunshine Place can call Cervantes at 608-514-6210.

Police said Wednesday that they don’t have a timetable for deciding whether to recommend criminal charges in the blast.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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