Oconomowoc, WI – As a natural gas explosion sent debris flying and flames shooting toward the sky, Oconomowoc first responders were on scene trying to help people who were injured.
The Oconomowoc Fire Department was called to First Baptist Church a few minutes before the explosion because there was a strong smell of natural gas in the area. Those firefighters were on scene when the gas exploded and were the first people to radio their dispatcher for help.
TODAY’S TMJ4 obtained recordings of the emergency dispatch transmissions. This is the first call from the scene after the explosion happened: “Dispatch, weve got a major explosion. Baptist church just blew up.”
The rescue workers also surveyed the scene and determined that some of the We Energies employees at the scene were injured. They radioed, “Dispatch, get like three of four ambulances coming too, weve got workers down.”
The explosion and fire destroyed the landmark church and gutted two adjacent houses. Seven people were injured and damage is estimated at about $1 million.
Collette Wiercyski was the dispatcher listening to all of the radio traffic and ensuring that the rescue effort remained organized. She told TODAY’S TMJ4 reporter Mick Trevey that she did not actually realize how bad the situation was saying, “I really had no idea.” “I mean, I heard the words the church just exploded come over the radio, didnt really have time to think about it, just reacted and started doing what I had to do,” Wiercyski said.
The dispatch recordings also illustrate how calm everyone remained during the explosion and response. Wiercyski explained it by saying, “In that situation, because it was such a major incident, a lot of times dispatch remaining calm helps those on scene. So I was trying to keep that in mind.”
Wiercyski waited two days before she even looked at pictures of the explosion site. She said she realized how severe the damage was, “I saw how everything kind of happened and how close everybody was truly a miracle.”
The Deputy Fire Chief in Oconomowoc said rescue workers train to remain calm during an emergency situation.