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Equipment Purchase Helps with Backwoods RescuesSubmitted: 03/19/2013
Story By Lex Gray


RHINELANDER - The extra snow means extra, late-season snowmobiling.

In Arbor Vitae, this year has been a little safer than years past.

The Arbor Vitae Fire Department bought a John Deere Gator. They've been using it since mid-December.

The Gator can easily climb snow banks and drive through deep snow.

It will help rescuers reach people faster, even if they're deep in the woods.

"We have miles and miles of snowmobile trails up here, accidents can happen anywhere from one mile off of a highway up to about 20 miles off into the woods," said first responder Ben Woynich. "Vehicles like this give us the accessibility, give us safety and comfort on the way out there, we have great communication abilities with it."

Rescue Chief Stan Lewis used the gator to save a man's life in February.

A snowmobiler rolled into a ravine, and his sled landed on top of him while he was driving about a mile and a half off Highway 70.

It took the department just 20 minutes to reach him after they got the call.

"I was definitely glad, all the time and effort putting into researching and finding out what machine we wanted, and what we wanted the bed to look like," Lewis said. "It made me happy to finally use it and see that it does work and that we're able to use it in practical situations."

The gator cost $30,000. The department used money they get from responding to crashes on state highways.

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 IN OTHER NEWS
What We're Working OnSubmitted: 08/26/2016

- Tonight on Friday Night Blitz we will bring you scores from high school football games all across North Central Wisconsin as well as highlights from the following games:

River Falls vs. Merrill

Rhinelander vs. Wittenberg-Birnamwood

Oconto vs. Antigo

Phillips vs. Tomahawk

That will be tonight on Friday Night Blitz at the end of Newswatch 12 at 10.

We'll bring you this and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

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MADISON - A new study suggests that Wisconsin's villages have struggled more with economic recovery than larger cities since the big recession of 2008-09.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that the study also found the controversial Act 10 that was passed to limit collective bargaining by public workers saved local governments about $100 million, or 1.5 percent of total spending, in 2012.

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RHINELANDER - Rhinelander High School's class of 2020 will come in strong with a class of nearly 175 students.

The student government held a new student orientation to ease some of the first day jitters. 

Most of the incoming class includes students from James Williams Middle School and Nativity. 

The orientation was held for freshman as well as transfer students.

Some of the new students did find some aspects of high school surprising. 

"It's a bigger school than I thought, way bigger than I thought," said incoming freshman Luke Fritz.
The students found the tour extremely helpful.

 Students were able to visit their classes, meet their teachers and learn about new clubs and organizations. 

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EAGLE RIVER - You might think a business incubator focuses on creating jobs.  But the Vilas County Economic Development Corporation lives by the mindset of creating opportunities, knowing when you do that the jobs tend to follow.

VCEDC started its first business incubator in Eagle River in 2012.  That building filled up, so they moved into two across Highway 70, including the Eye on Entrepreneurs building in 2015.  Project Manager Barry McLeane says creativity now pours out of all six of their current sites, from Phelps to Manitowish Waters.

"I've listened to some pretty bizarre ideas over the last three or four years and it's OK," McLeane said.  "It's OK, because bizarre ideas settle down into something really substantial."

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CRANDON - This upcoming school year, Crandon students will learn more about forgiveness and kindness as part of a new initiative.

The Crandon School District called on 2016 Wisconsin Elementary Principal of the Year Melissa Herek to help introduce some of these new practices earlier this week.

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FITCHBURG - Investigators will try to determine why a house exploded in Fitchburg, critically injuring a man and causing damage to at least two dozen other homes in the neighborhood.

Authorities say the 57-year-old man has significant injuries as a result of the explosion just before 7 p.m. Thursday. Fire officials say three nearby houses have major structural damage and 23 others have moderate to minor damage. Fire Chief Joe Pulvermacher says debris from the explosion landed about a-half mile from the scene.

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VILAS COUNTY - Police still need to arrest the person who killed a Phelps woman back in May.

Hikers found the body of 47-year-old Luann Beckman on a trail near Noseeum Lake.

Investigators then ruled it a homicide and sent all the evidence to the state crime lab in Madison.

The Vilas County Sheriff told Newswatch 12 they've interviewed dozens of people and have a list of suspects, but they need DNA evidence for an arrest.

"We're waiting for the science to point us in the right direction," said Vilas County Sheriff Joe Fath. "It would be wonderful to develop a DNA profile to lead us to somebody. Or be able to get a full profile to be able to compare to people in the area that we've gotten leads on."

Sheriff Fath told Newswatch investigators had to submit some evidence to the FBI crime lab. He said the state crime lab found a partial DNA profile and needs to send it to a place with more advanced technology.

"I mean we still get calls from the community, but it's not substantive," Fath said. "You know it's, I heard this, I heard that, I think this, I think you might want to talk to this guy, which we do. But we will continue to follow up on those leads."

He said investigators do think the suspect is local and someone Beckman knew.

If you have any information, you can call the anonymous tip line, 1-800-78-CRIME. 

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