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a.MKE THE List: Five-Alarm Fire in Riverwest & the MVP Prize Package: Today’s Top Stories

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Yesterday firefighters battled a five-alarm fire during extreme heat in Riverwest. The fire gutted Joe’s East Coast Car Shop on Center Street and at least four people who lived in art studios in the building managed to escape. Two firefighters among the dozens battling the blaze were taken to the hospital for heat exhaustion. And because of the heat, the county actually offered firefighters the use of two county buses as an air-conditioned haven. Other firefighters were taking water breaks under a nearby tent and some bystanders offered police offers and firefighters bottled water. Officials say they think the fire started in the auto shop’s garage, possibly in the gas tank of one of the vehicles being serviced.

Now through July 23rd anyone dropping off a food donation at the Hunger Task Force or Ryan Braun’s Graffito, will be eligible to win an MVP prize package. The package includes autographed Ryan Braun and Aaron Rodgers jerseys, access to Braun’s suite at Miller Park during a 2012 Brewers game, plus a 50-inch plasma TV. The goal is to fight local hunger and it’s a partnership between SURG Restaurant Group, Hunger Task Force, and of course MVP’s Ryan Braun and Aaron Rodgers. Donations can be dropped off at the task force Monday through Friday, and at Graffito, any day of the week. 

Two southeastern Wisconsin high schools have received “Strength of America Awards”. Marquette University High School and Muskego High School were among 14 schools that were chosen. The award actually started back in 2010 to set standards for high school conditioning programs. Award officials said “It’s important to raise schools’ strength and conditioning program standards and continue to create awareness to improve education for all our youth.” Several hundred schools applied for the award and a national committee reviewed applications.

A new report shows that U.S. drought is the widest since 1956. The monthly ‘State of the Climate’ drought report says that 55% of the continental U.S. is in a moderate to extreme drought. That’s the most since December of 1956 when 58% of the country was covered by drought.  The nation’s corn and soybean belt has been hit the hardest these past few months. The report also says that the Midwest has experienced its 7th warmest and 10th driest April-to-June period. Some farmers here in Wisconsin have already cut their corn midway through the growing season to do the poor conditions.

With the Wisconsin State Fair right around the corner, fairgoers and local-area organizations are prepping for the annual event. Since summer is such a slow time for blood donations, the Bloodcenter of Wisconsin is offering Wisconsin State Fair tickets to blood donors now through August 11th. Donors are being asked to call the center and mention the word ‘summer’ to make an appointment. The state fair runs from August 2nd through the 12th.

Historic Milwaukee is asking the public to vote for the “Doors Open Milwaukee 2012 t-shirt design”. The design with the most likes on Facebook will be a finalist. The winner of the t-shirt design contest will have his or her entry selected as the design for the doors open 2012 t-shirt which will be printed and sold by Historic Milwaukee. The winner will also get a one-year HMI membership and a cash prize. CEO of Laughlin Constable, Steve Laughlin, will choose the grand prize winner. This year’s Doors Open event will take place on September 22nd and 23rd.  The t-shirt voting closes Friday at noon.