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Child playing with lighter ignites structure fire in Racine area; one person burned

MOUNT PLEASANT — A child playing with a lighter ignited a fire that injured one person and caused about $40,000 in damages.

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The South Shore Fire Department responded to the 2000 block of Howe Street at about 8:05 p.m. Tuesday on the report of a structure fire.

Upon arrival, firefighters located the fire in an upstairs bedroom. It took about 20 minutes to bring the fire under control.

One person was treated and released for minor burns by the South Shore Fire Department paramedics.

SSFD was assisted at the scene by the Mount Pleasant Police Department and We Energies.


According to the National Fire Protection Association, from 2014 to 2018 about 30,460 fires stemmed from someone playing with fire.

NFPA reported “these fires resulted in an estimated 50 deaths, 510 injuries, and $205 million in direct property damage each year.”

According to the American Red Cross, more than 50% of fires started by children playing with fire occur in a bedroom and bedding is the first material ignited.

The Red Cross recommends keeping cigarette lighters and matches stored where children cannot access them.

Additionally, parents and caregivers should talk to children about the importance of notifying an adult if matches or a lighter is found.

Union Grove's Norah Roberts approaches the eighteenth green during the WIAA Division 1 Girl's State Golf Championship at University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, Wis., Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL

UPDATE: State police association leader says Ted Nugent-backed bills wouldn't make state safer

MADISON — Rock musician and gun rights advocate Ted Nugent joined Republican lawmakers at the state Capitol building Wednesday to advocate for a package of GOP-authored bills that would, among other measures, allow residents to carry a concealed firearm without a license and allow for firearms to be carried inside bars.

Nugent, an avid hunter, spoke alongside close to two dozen Republican lawmakers in the Assembly chamber in favor of the legislative package dubbed the Wisconsin Sporting Freedom Package, which proponents say is meant to simplify regulations and increase access to the state’s natural resources.

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“Hunting is essential and any regulation that doesn’t deal with safety or science-based wildlife management is an obstacle to participation,” Nugent said, wearing a baseball cap and camouflage shirt in the Assembly chamber Wednesday. “When you’ve got a landmine field of regulations, people are quitting, people are not pursuing it and that precious wildlife resources goes from an asset … and it goes immediately into the liability column.”

The package of bills was unveiled last week and has been endorsed by Hunter Nation, a Kansas-based hunting organization that is suing the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for initially not allowing people to hunt wolves last winter. Nugent was named Hunter Nation’s national spokesperson this summer.

Caitlin Sievers / Submitted 



Jim Palmer, the executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, says the proposals would likely make Wisconsin less safe, while Mount Pleasant Police Chief Matthew Soens says they will have little effect.

“We are in the process of reviewing these proposals,” Palmer said in an email. “Having said that, I can tell you that in the last two years, approximately 80 percent of the officer-involved shootings in Wisconsin have involved individuals that confronted officers with firearms, and this has been a consistently growing trend during the 10 years that we have collected data on these incidents. Given those statistics and the general increase in gun violence in the state, it is difficult to see how these proposals make Wisconsin safer for our communities or the officers that work to keep them safe.”

In a statement, Soens said: “I really don’t see any drastic effects resulting if these proposals materialize. We will enforce any new laws and/or changes to existing laws, to include consultation with the Racine County District Attorney’s Office when appropriate.”

Racine Police Chief Maurice Robinson and Waterford Police Chief Matt Johnson issued similar statements, saying they would enforce laws as they are written in consultation with the DA’s office.

While Hunter Nation’s founder, Keith Mark, said the package of 13 bills should be bipartisan, at least one of the proposals, which would allow Wisconsinites to carry a concealed firearm without a license or law enforcement identification card, is almost certainly headed for a veto by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who has pushed to increase firearm restrictions in the state, including universal background checks.

That bill, introduced by Sen. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, and Rep. Robert Brooks, R-Saukville, is similar to legislation Felzkowski proposed in 2017, which failed to pass after fellow Republican and then-Gov. Scott Walker said he supported existing laws that require concealed carry permits.

“In the state of Wisconsin, we allow you to open carry — you can strap up a 9mm pistol on your hip and you can walk down main street, but you can’t put a coat on,” Felzkowski said. “And we’re here to rectify that.”


Other components in the Felzkowski-Brooks bill would eliminate Wisconsin rules that prohibit the carrying of a firearm in certain buildings — including police stations, correction centers or secure mental facilities — but would allow individual facilities to prohibit firearms.

The bill also would remove the state’s ban on firearms in bars and taverns, but would allow individual business owners to prohibit guns in their establishments. Anyone carrying a firearm in a bar would not be allowed to consume alcohol under the bill.

The bill also would eliminate the state’s ban on loading a firearm in a vehicle — current law allows individuals to keep a loaded handgun in a vehicle — and would prohibit local governments from barring riders on public transit systems from carrying knives or firearms.

Evers’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the bills Wednesday.

The package also includes legislation to require the DNR to authorize the hunting of sandhill cranes, which are currently a protected species, and administer a sandhill crane hunter education program.

“We want a balanced, healthy, thriving population of sandhill cranes in the asset column, not in the liability column — I recommend garlic and butter,” Nugent said when asked about hunting sandhill cranes.

The International Crane Foundation, based in Baraboo, has raised concerns with the proposal, which could harm the state’s crane population or pose a threat to whooping cranes, an endangered species the organization has worked to reintroduce to the state.

The Madison Audubon Society also has raised concerns over the bill.

Other bills in the package would simplify the state’s turkey hunting seasons and increase the number of pheasants and brook trout being stocked by DNR. Another proposed bill would require that, for each new rule the DNR implements relating to hunting, fishing or trapping, the department would need to repeal three existing rules in those categories.

DNR spokesperson Sarah Hoye said Wednesday the department is reviewing the legislative package and had no comment on the bills.

Guilty pleas

Nugent’s visit to Madison was met with criticism by some state Democrats, who pointed to his hunting violations in the past.

Nugent pleaded guilty in 2012 to transporting a black bear he illegally killed in Alaska. In 2010, he pleaded guilty to illegally baiting deer in California.

“It’s no wonder Republicans picked Ted Nugent as their spokesperson on this issue,” Sen. Jeff Smith, D-Brunswick, tweeted Wednesday. “Nugent’s track record for following the law while hunting is akin to having an election investigator who knows nothing about elections.”


Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, wrote in a message to The Journal Times: “Our concealed carry license system serves an important purpose. I have strong concerns regarding removing training requirements for people who want to carry concealed weapons in our community. I also find it concerning that this bill would legalize concealed weapons in places like police stations, corrections facilities, and secure mental health facilities — all without a license or training requirements.”

Kids make up 25% of current COVID-19 diagnoses. In Racine, that number is even higher

RACINE — The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently called COVID-19 the “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” a phrase co-opted by the Biden administration.

Among the unvaccinated are children, who are either too young to be vaccinated or whose parents have chosen not to get them vaccinated.

In the early days of the pandemic, children represented just 16% of COVID cases in the U.S. For the seven-day period ending Oct. 7, children made up close to 25% of cases nationally, according to a report issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In the City of Racine, that number is a bit higher.

Stephan Kurdas, the city’s coordinator of laboratory services, provided the city Board of Health with an update on local COVID cases on Tuesday. He said recent cases of COVID in those younger than 18 is on the rise.

“As we saw in the Southern states, our youth make up a higher percentage of cases overall,” Kurdas said.

He explained that last year at this time, individuals under the age of 18 made up about 10% to 15% of the daily reported cases.

But “they make up in the neighborhood of 30% (of new cases) at this current point in time,” Kurdas said.

This increase in cases is attributed to the fact schools opened in full this year, he said.

However, as information provided by the Racine Public Health Department demonstrates, the rate of youths getting vaccinated is proceeding at sluggishly as the adult rate.

Children and COVID

According to the AAP, “over 6 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic” and the rate of new cases remains “exceptionally high.”

AAP reported in the week prior to Oct. 7, there were 148,000 new child cases of COVID-19; in the month prior there were 750,000 new cases.

The report noted that while death and hospitalization due to COVID are rare for children, the long-term impact of COVID on developing bodies is still being studied.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children with long-term COVID experience symptoms similar to those experienced by adults: Fatigue, headaches, insomnia, trouble concentrating, muscle and joint pain, and cough.

Although scientists initially thought children were not contributing to the spread of COVID at the same rate as adults, an article published by Harvard Medical School on Oct. 7 indicated the possibility that children were as contagious as adults — despite their usually more mild symptoms.

Dee Holzel / City of Racine 

Like the adult rates, youth vaccination rates remain sluggish in the City of Racine.

Vaccination rates

According to the CDC, American youths ages 12-17 have a vaccination rate of 42% with 32% completing the series.

In Racine, 12- to 15-year-olds have a vaccination rate of 30.6% with 26.4% completing the series.

For 16- and 17-year-olds in Racine, the vaccination rates are a bit higher, with 33.9% vaccinated. Of that, 29.5% have received the entire series.

However, it is also true they were the most recent groups to get the vaccine option.

Seniors have the highest rate of vaccination — about 80% are fully vaccinated — but they were also the first age group to be fully eligible for vaccination.

In Racine, 50.1% of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine and of that number, 45.2% are fully vaccinated. Statewide, 57.2% of Wisconsinites have received at least one vaccine dose and 54.5% are fully vaccinated.

Last week, 140 individuals received the vaccine in the city, whether it was a booster shot, the first dose or completion of their series.

How mask ordinance could be lifted

Kurdas’ report to the Board of Health was a mixture of good news and bad.

While the confirmed case count was up 154 cases, there were no deaths, and the hospitalization rate remained roughly the same.

“So that is good news,” Kurdas said.

Otherwise, the city’s progress remains sluggish: The case rate hasn’t changed and the transmission level remained high.

The city’s current mask ordinance is tied to the transmission level. Currently, the city’s case rate is 203 active cases per 100,000 residents, which the CDC rates as high.

Dee Holzel / Courtesy of City of Racine, per CDC data 

The community transmission level has been up and down but generally hanging out in the high category since August in the City of Racine.

The city needs to get that rate below 49 cases per 100,000 people for three weeks to rise back into the moderate category and have the mask ordinance lifted.

“So we have a bit of work to do ahead of us, especially going into the winter season, where we know it will be a little more challenging to reduce our exposure and risk of transmission,” Kurdas said.

The CDC and the City of Racine Public Health Department continue to encourage those who are eligible to get vaccinated.