Sun Prairie explosion highlights importance of following evacuation order

Published: Jul. 18, 2018 at 4:57 PM CDT
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The recent tragedy in Sun Prairie shed light on the importance of following evacuation procedures that can save countless lives.

Glass Nickel Pizza was one of the buildings that was destroyed in the July 10 explosion. The employees of the restaurant who were working that night said how grateful they are for the emergency response teams’ quick evacuations.

“I’m glad we just followed and did the safest thing we could and got out. There were still pizzas in the oven and still stuff going on, but it was just the best bet to get out so that’s what we did,” Kelsi Simons, a host and waitress at Glass Nickel Pizza said.

Capt. Pat McCabe of the Sun Prairie Fire Dept. said there were some initial holdouts of the evacuation order, but partnering with law enforcement helped get people away from the site.

"Possessions are replaceable. Your house, your car, anything can be replaced. A life cannot," said McCabe. "The events that unfolded in Sun Prairie last week are a perfect example of why people need to listen."

McCabe said during evacuation orders, they often find people doing the opposite of what they ask-- walking towards the scene to feed their curiosity.

“Thank God that they acted as quickly as they did," said John Britt, who was working as a delivery driver for the restaurant and also followed the order immediately. He said they got it about a half-hour before the deadly explosion.

"If they had not done that we probably could’ve lost a lot more lives that day,” Britt said.

Britt says he hopes what happened here makes more businesses reflect on their evacuation plans and make sure to have a serious one in place. And he's glad his employer had an effective one.

"If they ask you to evacuate, please listen, because that quality of life-- being able to live to see another day, that's what we want. We're there to make sure you are okay," McCabe said.

Capt. McCabe said emergency crews tell people to only grab any necessary medication before an evacuation, and nothing else.

The July 10 explosion killed Capt. Cory Barr while he was responding and evacuating buildings in the hot zone at the intersection of Main and Bristol Streets in historic downtown Sun Prairie.

Barr was a volunteer firefighter, a realtor and owner of the Barr House, one of four buildings leveled in the explosion. The 34-year-old leaves behind his wife, Abby, and 3-year-old twin daughters, Aubrey and Hailey.

More than 100 people were safely evacuated, but could not return to their homes for several days. Several other businesses were damaged and remain closed.