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Business Roundup: Authorities trying to figure out why Burlington egg plant started on fire

BURLINGTON - Authorities are poring through the rubble of a Burlington egg processing plant, to find out why it started on fire Wednesday night.

The blaze destroyed the production area of Echo Lake Foods, which makes a host of pre-cooked breakfast products. Most of it goes to wholesalers and large government facilities like schools and prisons. Burlington Fire Chief Richard Lodle said the warehouse area was not burned, because it was separated by fire-walls. No one was hurt. About 50 nearby residents returned home yesterday, after being evacuated overnight due to concerns about a possible ammonia leak. Mayor Bob Miller said the hazardous materials were contained. State emergency management officials said there was a minor release of ammonia residue from pipes - and they're monitoring the air quality. About 300 fire-fighters from 88 departments battled the blaze for more than 15 hours. State officials said some of the fire equipment froze up with temperatures in the teens - and runoff water also froze, which made the footing risky for the fire-fighters. Echo Lake Foods has about 300 employees, and they can start filing for unemployment benefits next week. The mayor says he'll do what he can to help the plant rebuild. The Racine County Economic Development Corporation said it has some tax credits and loans available - but they're not sure how much could be available.


Damage is estimated at $1.2 million from a fire at a plant near Wausau that makes hardwood flooring. Authorities said a computerized sanding machine started on fire yesterday at a Weston business called From-the-Forest. Sawdust was reportedly ignited from a spark in the machine. Employees tried putting out the fire with extinguishers - but that didn't work, so they called 911. Officials said the fire was put out quickly, and no one was hurt. Damage was estimated at $200,000 to the sanding machine, plus about a million dollars in manufacturing flooring products that received damage from smoke-and-ash. From the Forest operates two plants in Weston, which is east of Wausau.


The Manitowoc Company said its quarterly profits more than doubled from a year ago, thanks to a nearly 12-percent increase in its sales of construction cranes. The firm reports a net income of 34-and-a-half million dollars from October-through-December. That's 132-percent higher than the same quarter of 2011. Earnings totaled 26-cents a share, much higher than the 11-cents from the year before. A recovering U-S economy was credited for the larger crane sales. They totaled $767-million dollars, up from $687-million in the fourth quarter of the previous year. CEO Glen Tellock said the Manitowoc County finished the year on a strong note. Its net income for the entire year jumped by eight-and-a-half percent from 2011. The firm released its figures late yesterday, after the stock markets closed. Manitowoc's stock was up 24-cents on the day, at $17.60.


The new snow was hardly on the ground when the phones started ringing off-the-hook at Chamber-of-Commerce offices in northern Wisconsin. It seems that lots of snowmobilers want to know about the conditions "up north" - where 4-to-10 inches of snow fell on Wednesday. It was music-to-the-ears of Northwoods businesses which have had a poor tourism season due to a lack of snow. But now, the National Weather Service says most of Vilas County has 10-to-16 inches of snow on the ground. And other parts of the north have 7-to-15 inches. Eagle River Chamber director Connie Heeg said 11 snowmobiles whizzed by his office while he was on the phone - and he saw more machines riding around yesterday than any other day this winter. Kim Baltus of the Minocqua Area Chamber said it should make for a good weekend for the riders. Central Wisconsin also expects an influx of snowmobilers. Marathon County trails re-open at noon today, and Wood County's trails will open tomorrow morning. Most places in central Wisconsin, the Fox Valley, and Door County have 6-to-14 snow covers. And forecasters say another coating of light snow is likely tomorrow and possible on Sunday and Monday nights.