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Racine fire caused by unattended cooking damages community center, hurts firefighter

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RACINE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A fire at a community center in Racine caused major damage to the building and left one firefighter hurt.

The Lakeview Community Center in Racine is damaged after a fire in the building Wednesday. The center is located across the street from the Racine Zoo. The Racine Fire Department says the Lantern Festival workers from China, who are putting up decorations at the zoo, were cooking inside the community center when they stepped out for a smoke break. They say grease is to blame for the fire.

“There were two more containers of cooking oil right next to where the fire started, and I think that all got going rather quickly and made for a bigger fire,” said Racine Fire Department Captain Craig Ford.

The fire department says there’s about $500,000 worth of damage to the city-owned building. Firefighters battled the flames in 80-degree weather and high humidity on Wednesday. A 41-year-old firefighter collapsed on the roof because of heat exhaustion.

“There were flames coming out of the roof, smoke was banked down to the floor. The firefighters had a tough task because it was so warm today,” Captain Craig Ford said.

The Racine Zoo staff says luckily a majority of the Lantern Festival decorations were already set up and not damaged. Now the zoo staff is looking at the silver lining.

“We can fix the Lantern Festival, and we can fix the building. Everyone is safe, that’s the most important thing,” Racine Zoo Special Events Sales Manager Chelsea Locke said.

The Racine Zoo Lantern Festival will start as planned on October 1.  


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