Neighbors react to north side explosion, “shelter in place” order

Some felt the explosion, others saw a 40-foot column of smoke and fire
Neighbors react to north side explosion, “shelter in place” order

The fuel tank explosion on La Crosse’s north side shook buildings and forced neighbors inside.

Because asphalt and diesel were burning into the air, authorities issued a “shelter in place” warning, asking all neighbors in a ten-block radius to stay in their homes.

Some who live and work in the area heard, and even felt the blast early Wednesday morning, others saw flames and smoke high in the air. And everyone received a call of potentially dangerous chemicals.

Put it all together, it made for a tense morning.

“All of a sudden I heard a big bang, I jumped about six inches, I didn’t know what was going on,” said Paul Dahlby who lives and works near the explosion site.

Dahlby was doing some early morning cleaning when the blast shook his building. “I could see the flames from my back door, they were, had to be at least 40 feet high or higher,” said Dahlby.

After seeing a steady stream of fire trucks rush to the scene, Dahlby said he hoped the things wouldn’t get worse, “I was kind of worried you know, I said geez I hope nothing else down there blows up.”

Jessica Zitzner owns K-9 Klips across the street.. When she heard the news, she made sure her customers stayed away. “Made a few phone calls, canceled the first couple dogs for the safety of everybody to keep people away from the area,” said Zitzner, “I know they said something about the air quality and with the safety of the pets, and it’s just simpler to stay away from here.”

Her first customer back was Michael Johnsen, he lives nearby and spent the morning sheltered in place. “I’m kind of surprised,” said Johnsen, “we’ve lived here for a long time and that’s the first incidents they’ve had over there.”

“My first question was, I wonder if it’s one of the ones that we put up,” said Jon Mason who helped build the tank six or seven years ago.

He came down to the site to see how much of his hard work just went up in flames. “Actually on my way to work and I thought I’d just swing by and see what it looked like and which ones they were,” said Mason, “It’s kind of depressing cause we put a lot of work into them.”

But after a busy morning, it wasn’t long before it was business as usual on the north side. “The officers left a phone call that said the, that everything was fine, it was clear to go,” said Zitzner.

There were seven tanks in the area, so it’s lucky that nothing else went up in flames today. The “shelter in place” warning was lifted at about 8:30 Wednesday morning.

Throughout the process, authorities carefully monitored air quality at the fire scene, and nine blocks away.