STATEWIDE - Although it's fairly damp in much of the Northwoods now , that could change quickly. When the snow is gone, last year's leaves will dry out fast, and make the perfect fuel for forest fires.
"Generally spring is our most dangerous fire season because all the dead and dry vegetation, and that's typically time of year that we have the least amount of humidity," said John Gillen a Forest Ranger with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Recources.
We've all seen the signs with Smokey the Bear alongside the road. Now is the time to follow his warning. Just one warm, windy day can push conditions from a low fire threat, to moderate or high. That makes it even more important to follow the rules before lighting a fire.
"Now that we've lost our snow cover, folks need to obtain a burning permit anytime that they wish to burn yard waste, such as leaves, needles, brush piles, those types of things," said Gillen.
Wind, humidity, temperature, and the timing of the last rainfall are the biggest factors in a wildfire. Gillen says to take extra care with long-burning fires, like wood boilers. They can take DAYS to completely die out, he says be especially careful with those ashes.
STEVENS POINT - A former Portage County doctor could go to prison for sexually assaulting his patients. Wilton Calderon pled guilty to three felonies Friday.
Calderon was a caregiver at the Plover Family Practice until leaving it in 2015. He then moved to Connecticut.
At least seven women accused Calderon of sexually assaulted them during appointments. Some patients said Calderon placed his genitals in their hands and performed unwanted gynecological exams by penetrating them with his fingers.
SUGAR CAMP - Update Feb. 17, 2017 10:20 p.m. -- The woman who runs an Oneida County animal rescue could face animal mistreatment charges.
Oneida County Deputies booked Stephanie Schneider on Thursday. She is due in court on Feb. 27.
Last week, deputies removed 39 dogs from Schneider's "It Matters to One" in Sugar Camp and put them at the Oneida County Humane Society.
Police are recommending charges to the district attorney, which include failing to provide food and water, mistreating animals, and obstructing officers.
People who know Schneider say they can't believe this is happening.
"I'm just heartsick about this, and I'm sick at heart for her," said LynnAnn Thomas, a Sugar Camp resident who says she's friends with Stephanie Schneider.
"Those are her children. She would never, ever , ever mistreat them," Thomas said.
But that's exactly what police believe Schneider did. Last week they removed the dogs from the facility after a weeks-long investigation that was prompted by complaints and concerns from several people.
"People that had worked or volunteered there were concerned about the conditions that the dogs were in and the fact that they were not receiving food or water," said Oneida County Sheriff's Capt. Terri Hook.
Those accusations baffle Thomas.
"I been over there several times, it's always been meticulously clean, happy dogs," Thomas said.
Thomas believes whatever condition the dogs were in, they came to Schneider that way.
"She does get some really, really, really desperate cases, and I imagine that they take a long time to heal," Thomas said.
Thomas added she got her own dog from It Matters To One a few years ago.
"I got my little Hankey, he came in in really bad shape, and she wouldn't let me have him until he was nursed back to health," Thomas said.
Since the dogs were removed, It Matters to One posted certificates of veterinary inspections on its Facebook page for most of the 39 dogs. The Sheriff's Office has seen those and is including them in its investigation, which is ongoing and may not end soon.
"Just to ensure that all the dogs are healed and make sure they've received all the care they need," Hook said.
Newswatch 12 has reached out to It Matters to One and has been communicating with the rescue via email.
The state Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection is helping the sheriff's office with its investigation and will decide if the rescue can keep its license.
Newswatch 12 also reached out to the veterinarian who conducted the inspections for the rescue, but has not yet heard back.
ONEIDA COUNTY - The Squash Lake Ice Association is holding its ice out contest again on Squash Lake.
The goal is to guess when the ice will melt, and when the giant loon will drop and float on the lake.
A special clock attached to the loon records the exact date and time it drops.
The winner gets to keep half of the money from ticket sales, and the other half will help fight watermilfoil on Squash Lake.
"It's been here since 2009. It was when it was first discovered. This year's point survey found no milfoil. What that means is we are doing a good and we want to keep that effort up," said Squash Lake Association board member Marj Mehring.
Mehring says the best way to see the loon up close on Squash Lake is to snowshoe, snowmobile, or ice fish.
You need to buy a ticket from Squash Lake's website to make a guess on when the loon will drop and float.
MADISON - A suspended University of Wisconsin-Madison student accused of sexually assaulting and harassing nearly a dozen women has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges.
Twenty-year-old Alec Cook faces a total of 21 counts, including strangulation, sexual assault, stalking and false imprisonment involving 10 women dating back to March 2015. Five of the charges are misdemeanors. The rest are felonies.
Disclaimer: All information deemed reliable but not guaranteed and should be independently verified. Rockfleet Broadcasting / Northland Television, Inc. and By Request Web Designs shall not be held responsible for any typographical errors, misinformation, or misprints.