News May 12, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Chemical Fire Burns in Columbus

5/12/09 – Emergency responders from around the state are on the scene of a major chemical fire in Columbus. It started with a fire call just after 8pm last night at Columbus Chemical Industries and turned into a series of explosions that Dodge County Sheriff Todd Nehls described as being louder than anything he heard while serving in Afghanistan. Several chemicals unidentified are involved. There is a half-mile mandatory evacuation zone around the area of the plant. A toxic chemical cloud is heading in a northwesterly direction to the Fall River area. Residents outside the mandatory evacuation zone, but in the vicinity of the fire are being asked to “shelter-in-place,” meaning to close all windows and doors and turn-off furnaces and air conditioners. Highway’s 73 and 151 are closed and detour routes are in place that takes travelers south and east of the Columbus area. A Red Cross Shelter has been set up at the Columbus Senior Center. Nehls say, at this point, the fire is being allowed to burn itself out, and he says that could take until sunrise. In that case, the fire will continue to churn out a chemical smoke. Officials with the National Guard and Madison Level A HazMat Team will be making that determination before 2am.

Spokesperson Says Plant Receiving Regular Inspections

5/12/09 – Last night’s chemical fire and explosions was a shock to the fifty-five employees at Columbus Chemical. Company attorney, Tom Godar, offered background on the thirty year-old business located between highway 73 and the Crawfish River on Temkin Road. At the time of the fire no one was at work so there were no injuries. Godar said that the chemicals in the main building were primarily petroleum based and hydrochloric acid. The 55 employees have been notified they should stay away from the scene until emergency crews clear the area. Columbus Chemical had been receiving regular inspections and they recently became ISO certified as a safe work environment.

Less Than a Year Later Emergency Management Needed in Columbus Again

5/12/09 – The Columbus chemical fire and evacuation comes less than one year after the catastrophic floods. During those floods, disciplinary actions by then Mayor Nancy Osterhaus resulted in suspensions of Emergency Management Co-Directors Bob Zapotocny and Bill Kleutzman and the city hasn’t had a permanent replacement since. Two weeks ago, newly elected mayor Bob Link appointed former Police Chief Gerald Sallmann in an interim capacity until a permanent replacement can be found. Sallmann has experience in the position having served in the position while chief. Link says Sallmann has been invaluable since he assumed the interim position.

WI 2nd in Nation for H1N1 Flu Cases

5/12/09 – Wisconsin now has the nation’s second-highest number of cases of the H-1-N-1 flu virus. State health officials reported 414 confirmed cases yesterday, along with 35 probable ones. Only Illinois has more instances of the swine flu, with 487 confirmed. And by all indications, Wisconsin will soon have more flu cases. That’s because Milwaukee County – which keeps its own numbers – had 319 confirmed cases yesterday, while the state only recorded 231 for that location. The state and county release their numbers at different times – and that’s one major reason for the discrepancy. Nationally, there are over 25-hundred cases of what the World Health Organization calls Influenza-“A.” Three Americans have died from it. Still, there are no reported cases of the virus in Dodge County

Farmers Facing Animal Mistreatment Charges

5/12/09 – Two brothers in Lomira face felony Animal Mistreatment charges after authorities found what they described as an “appalling” and “abusive situation” at their seven acre farm. 40-year-old Harvey Buchholz and 35-year-old Heath Buchholz are each charged with four felony counts each of Mistreatment of Animals Causing Death. Authorities say they found dairy cows, calves, steer and sheep sick – bellowing with hunger — with inadequate food, water and bedding. According to the criminal complaint, there were dead animal carcasses strewn all over the barnyard. The remaining animals were covered in mange, with open sores and visible bones and ribs. A veterinarian brought in to assess the conditions said he was “appalled by the total lack of husbandry… and disregard for the welfare of the animals.” The brothers were given several weeks to address the situation this January. They denied that financial troubles lead to the conditions. They now each face up to 14 years in prison if convicted on each count. The Buchholz brothers each had a signature bond set at $1000 and they will be back in court later this month.

Woman Gets Probation for Smuggling Marijuana into Prison

5/12/09 – A Milwaukee woman was placed on probation for two years for attempting to smuggle marijuana into the Waupun Correctional Institution inside a candy wrapper. Debi N. Sanders pleaded “no contest” to reduced obstruction and drug possession charges and was placed on deferred prosecution on a second felony count of Delivering Illegal Articles to Inmates. The 25-year-old told authorities in February that she found the candy at the bottom of a vending machine and thought her incarcerated brother would like it. Sanders also had her license suspended for six months.