News
Explosion rocks downtown Bozeman; City calls press conference
March 19, 2009

A morning explosion rocked downtown Bozeman, destroying a downtown eatery and prompting the evacuation of the area.

http://www.montanasnewsstation.com/global/story.asp?s=9952373

A memorial service has been scheduled for the woman who died in last week's explosion and fire in downtown Bozeman.

The service for Tara Reistad Bowman, 36, will be held at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Grace Bible Church on South 19th Avenue in Bozeman.
Mrs. Bowman's body was recovered by searchers shortly after noon Sunday.
Mrs. Bowman was an employee of Montana Trails Gallery and was in the building at the time of the Wednesday morning explosion in the city's downtown.

She was married to Chris Bowman, the son of Larry and Marcia Bowman, owners of Owenhouse Ace Hardware stores.
A long-time friend of the family described Mrs. Bowman as the most genuine, positive person who was the nucleus of her family. She said anyone who met her came away marveling at her energy and her gorgeous smile.
Mrs. Bowman was the only daughter in the family with four older brothers.

The cause of the explosion remains under investigation by the Bozeman Fire Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The body of a woman recovered from a devastating explosion that rocked downtown Bozeman last week has been identified.
Tara Reistad Bowman, 36, of Bozeman has been positively identified by dental records, according to the Gallatin County Sheriff's Department.

Mrs. Bowman's body was recovered by searchers shortly after noon Sunday.
Mrs. Bowman was an employee of Montana Trails Gallery and was in the building at the time of the explosion.

She was married to Chris Bowman, the son of Larry and Marcia Bowman, owners of Owenhouse Ace Hardware stores.

A long-time friend of the family described Mrs. Bowman as the most genuine, positive person who was the nucleus of her family. She said anyone who met her came away marveling at her energy and her gorgeous smile.
Mrs. Bowman was the only daughter in the family with four older brothers.

Representative JP Pomnichowski has already begun turning over rocks in search of dollars for distressed businesses and displaced people.
"We understand that a lot of the documentation that usually is needed doesn't exist. I don't consider these businesses small, they are an influential part of our community" said Pomnichowski. "But, the Small Business Administration is working on access to loans almost immediately. I am hoping that the loans will be available sometime in the next week."
The street, and businesses, on the north side in the 200 Block of East Main Street will remain closed indefinitely as the investigation continues.

A day-long search through the ruins of downtown Bozeman on Friday turned up no victims after a natural gas explosion collapsed three buildings Thursday.

One woman remains unaccounted for and she has not been identified.

Bozeman Assistant City Manager Chuck Winn says officials decided to suspend the search as darkness fell. They will resume the search at first light Saturday.

Thursday's explosion and fire destroyed Boodles restaurant, the Rocking R Bar, Montana Trails Art Gallery, the American Legion building and Lily Lu's children's store.

Rescuers started at daybreak Friday, sifting stick-by-stick through debris from a devastating explosion that rocked downtown Bozeman Thursday morning.

Crews are sorting through the remnants of several buildings that were demolished in the blast, hoping to get a better understanding of how the explosion was sparked, assistant city manager Chuck Winn said at a Friday morning press conference.

The focus is now about a three block area of downtown. Officials said they hope to begin opening parts of Main Street as early as Friday afternoon. As of late Friday morning, Rouse to Willson was still closed to traffic.

Business owners are being taken one-by-one with a police escort and a NorthWestern Energy representative to access the integrity of their buildings and to assess the damage.

Meanwhile, NorthWestern Energy spokesperson Claudia Rapkoch said that the company still does not know what caused the explosion.
Crews allowed the fire to burn into Thursday night because NorthWestern Energy crews were unable to completely shut off the natural gas.
Some 20 Montana National Guardsman on hand in Bozeman, who've been called in to help monitor the downtown area and are manning nine checkpoints around the damaged area.
Six businesses were completely destroyed in the blast. They include Boodles, the American Legion, the Rocking R bar, the Montana Trails Art Gallery, Lily Lu's children's store and the Pickle Barrel, which is inside the Rocking R. The Rocky Mountain Rug Gallery and Starky's Delicatessen were also significantly impacted by the explosion and subsequent fire.
Firefighters spent Thursday battling significant flames for the majority of the day in a "defensive mode".

The blast was reportedly felt all the way from Montana State University to Bozeman Deaconess Hospital and witnesses in the area reported seeing the roof of the building fly hundreds of feet into the air.

A two block radius of downtown Bozeman was immediately evacuated and officials have warned business owners, their employees and residents that Main Street could be shut down for days to come.

Congressman Denny Rehberg issued a statement Friday, saying, "My thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and families of everyone impacted by yesterday's events. I stand ready to work with Max, Jon and folks in the Bozeman community to help in any way I can."

Bozeman's city manager has declared a local emergency for the City of Bozeman after a Thursday morning natural gas explosion shook the downtown destroying several businesses.

"The continued burning creates an imminent threat of disaster causing immediate peril to life or property that can be averted or minimized through timely action. Life line systems are impacted, including electric, gas, water/wastewater systems, cable and communications. Problems with life line systems must be identified early and repaired, in not restored, expeditiously," the order states.
Several businesses were destroyed including Boodles restaurant, the Rocking R Bar, Pickle Barrel that is located in the Rocking R Bar, Montana Trails Gallery, the American Legion building , Montana Dance Studio and Lilly Lu's children's store.

The Rocky Mountain Rug Gallery and Starky's Authentic Deli were also significantly impacted by the explosion and subsequent fire.
The fire was reportedly stopped by Masonry fire break walls that were built when the buildings were constructed.

Debris is scattered throughout the downtown in a two to three block area.

The blast was reportedly felt all the way from MSU to Bozeman Deaconess Hospital. Witnesses in the area reported seeing the roof of the building fly hundreds of feet into the air.
Press conferences have been held throughout the day. Another is scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer attended a 2 p.m. press conference, saying it will take days to clean up.
CEO of NorthWestern Energy Bob Rowe was also in attendance at the 2 p.m. conference. He dispelled a rumor that there had been calls about a smell of natural gas Wednesday night. He said he checked the logs and there were no calls to the effect.

Assistant City Manager Chuck Winn says initially 11 people were unaccounted for after the fire that destroyed Boodles restaurant, the Rocking R Bar, Montana Trails Gallery, the American Legion building and Lilly Lu's children's store, according to the story reported by the Associated Press. Winn reportedly said police had been able to find ten of them.

A two-block radius surrounding the area has been evacuated and a fire continues to burn.

Thursday's gas explosion is the largest explosion in Bozeman in 24 years, according to Assistant City Manager Chuck Winn who spoke at a press conference at 10 a.m.

So far there are no reports of any casualties, Winn said, calling the explosion "a very serious incident."

Authorities said they believe the explosion originated at Boodles in the 200 block of Main Street at 8:15 a.m.

Crews continue to work on battling the fire which is still burning in the city's downtown and are also working on preventing the fire from spreading to the east.

Authorities are asking people to stay out of two-block radius around the incident and are predicting that the downtown area will be shut down for several days.

Meanwhile, the National Guard is ready to mobilize to help out if needed.

One eye witness said she was eating at Main Street Overeasy when she heard the explosion. It sounded like a cannon firing, she said. Diners heard the explosion, felt the building shake, then the electricity went out.

Another witness reported seeing debris falling from the sky in the area as late at 10:20 a.m.
Another press conference is being held at 2:00 p.m.

The city is holding a press conference at 10 a.m. on a Thursday morning explosion that rocked downtown Bozeman, destroying a Main Street eatery and prompting the evacuation of the area.

Reports indicate the explosion happened just around 8:00 a.m. Thursday in the 200 block of Main Street in the city's downtown.

Boodles, a downtown bar and restaurant was destroyed. Police have issued a mandatory evacuation of the two blocks surrounding the eatery.

Crews are working to extinguish the fire at the restaurant where smoke is rapidly rising and power has been reportedly cut in a portion of Mendenhall.

Ken Olson, the owner of the Pickle Barrel, a Main Street restaurant in the area, said no one was in his eatery at the time of the explosion and he believes all of his employees are safe. There is no word yet on whether anyone has been injured.

A diner at Main Street Overeasy on Main Street described the sound like that of a cannon firing. She said diners heard the noise and felt the building shake. The power immediately went out, she said.


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