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  Comments (5) Total Saturday Apr. 19, 2014
Gas Explosion Rocks Downtown Bozeman, Four Businesses Destroyed
Bozeman Explosion
Photo courtesy of Rhett Nemelka
BOZEMAN – A natural gas explosion rocked downtown Bozeman Thursday morning, collapsing three buildings and prompting evacuation of a two-block area, officials said.

City officials said four businesses were destroyed — Boodles restaurant and bar, the Rocking R Bar, the Montana Trails Gallery and the American Legion bar.

The explosion happened at about 8:15 a.m. in the 200 block of Main Street.

Crews were allowing the fire to burn because officials have been unable to completely shut off a natural gas line.

Assistant City Manager Chuck Winn, the former fire chief, said there were no reports of casualties, but said the rubble of the collapsed buildings was not yet safe to search.

"There's so much damage there and so much fire still that we cannot get our crews in," to search the rubble, Winn said.

As of 10 a.m., no victims from the explosion had been admitted to Bozeman Deaconess Hospital, the city's primary medical facility, said hospital spokeswoman Keli Tondre.

Witnesses reported seeing debris fly three times the height of the two-story building. Glass windows on downtown storefronts two blocks away were shattered by the blast, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.

The blast shook ceiling tiles at Schnee's Boots and Shoes three blocks from the explosion and knocked down shoes that were on display, but no one was hurt, said Dawn McClelland, who had just reported for work when the blast happened.

"The whole building shook," she said. "I thought somebody had rammed (a car) into the back of the building. The people up front thought the ceiling was falling in."

Two hours later, McClelland was preparing to leave as a haze hung over downtown. The store was closed for the day.

Ken Olson, the owner of the Pickle Barrel, a Main Street restaurant, said no one was in his eatery at the time of the explosion and he believes all of his employees are safe.
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