AP – An explosion rocked a small downtown office building Friday, shaking nearby structures and sending smoke billowing over the downtown area. No one was hurt.

The two-story building housed an apartment rental agency that hadn’t opened for the day when the blast occurred about 8:30 a.m.

The building’s owner, Cliff LeCleir, said that had the explosion occurred a half hour later, six employees of Home Apartments would have been working. He said it was a blessing no one was in the office. “We can always build a building, but we can’t replace people,” he said.

An early investigation indicated that a natural gas leak might have caused the blast, officials said.

“I did notice in one area that the ground was actually burning, and that’s a clue that there’s natural gas coming up and burning,” said La Crosse Assistant Fire Chief Mike Jorgenson.

Xcel Energy spokesman Mike Herro said the utility shut off gas to nearby buildings.

The intersection near the destroyed building was closed for construction, so no one was driving by when the explosion occurred, Sgt. John Ruegg said.

Angie Lee, office manager at Flad Ltd., an accounting firm a half a block away, said a customer had noticed the smell of gas in the area Thursday.