Briefs from around Illinois.


  Cat workers return to work after fire in EP plant   EAST PEORIA -- Caterpillar employees returned to work on Sunday morning, a day after a fire broke out in a furnace in Building KK in the Transmission Business Unit at the East Peoria plant.   Four workers in the facility were injured, said Caterpillar spokeswoman Kate Kenny in a news release. Three were initially taken to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria and were later transferred to the burn unit at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield. One worker was released Sunday, and the other two are listed in stable condition and are expected to be released later this week. The worker who remained at St. Francis was treated for smoke inhalation and released Saturday night. The names of the workers have not been released.   About 400 other employees were immediately evacuated from the building after the fire.   Kenny said everyone on the scene took the appropriate actions and followed the proper procedures, and only minor damage to the furnace area has been reported. The furnace, used to harden gears and shafts manufactured in the building, is expected to resume operations later this week.   Kenny said Caterpillar safety officials immediately contacted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and a preliminary investigation began Sunday.   The cause of the fire and a damage estimate has not yet been determined.   An official of United Auto Workers Local 974, who asked not to be identified, said a UAW safety representative was denied entry Sunday to the building where the fire broke out.   - Journal Star, Peoria   Man arrested for walking into wrong house   BURNT PRAIRIE -- Juan Medina, 62, of rural Burnt Prairie was arrested about 5:56 a.m. Sunday after he allegedly walked into Wayne and Connie Allen's rural Burnt Prairie residence.   White County Sheriff Doug Maier told The Times it appeared Medina was extremely intoxicated and apparently unaware he had walked into the wrong residence.   Maier further alleged that Medina had not only walked into the wrong residence but was preparing to go to bed as if he was in his own residence, unaware he was in the bedroom of the Allens' 9-year-old daughter.   Medina was booked at the City-County Jail in Carmi on a preliminary charge of criminal trespass to a residence pending $100 cash bail.   - The Carmi Times   White squirrels on the rise   OLNEY -- The 29th year of counting gray and albino squirrels in Olney showed a large increase in the number of white squirrels.   The count was headed by Chris Mathews, biology instructor at Olney Central College, and Olney City Clerk Belinda Henton.   During the three weeks of the count, there were about 60 volunteers counting squirrels and cats, consisting of students from Olney Central College, Bridgeport Science Club and volunteers from the community. The annual squirrel count was held at 7:30 a.m. October 13, 20 and 27.   Upon averaging data from the three counting dates, there were 872 gray squirrels, 141 albino squirrels, 18 fox squirrels and 93 cats. Compared to 2006, the gray squirrels increased 17.73 percent; the albino squirrels increased 47.38 percent; and the cats decreased by 2.11 percent. The gray to albino ratio in 2006 was 7.77 to 1; the gray to albino ratio in 2007 of 6.21 to 1 was an encouraging improvement.   Of the three weeks counted, the highest count for gray and white squirrels and cats was October 20. It was a sunny day with a temperature of 52 degrees at the beginning of the count.   - Olney Daily Mail   Man charged with sex abuse at mental health facility   DOWNERS GROVE -- A Downers Grove man was charged with sexually abusing three women at a Lombard mental health facility where he volunteered.   John McCain, 62, 424 Valley View Drive, was indicted by a grand jury Dec. 13 for three counts of criminal sexual assault and five counts of criminal sexual abuse. All of the women were residents of the Ray Graham Association for People with Disabilities learning center.   “We were devastated by what happened,” said Cathy Terrill, Ray Graham CEO. “The women are all safe. We appreciate the cooperation of the Lombard Police Department and the state’s attorney’s office.”   McCain had volunteered at the center for years, giving guitar lessons to adults with disabilities. The alleged incidents took place between May and October. He was arrested and charged in October and posted bond, said Paul Darrah, spokesman for the DuPage County state’s attorney. McCain’s volunteer service has since been terminated.   “We do background checks on all of our volunteers; our volunteers go through training,” Terrill said. “We have followed the protocol that has been set out by the state, and we will continue to follow that protocol.”   All of the victims have received services from Ray Graham for many years and are continuing to receive services there, Terrill said. Criminal sexual assault is a class one felony carrying a sentence of four to 15 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections, Darrah said. Criminal sexual abuse is a class four felony with a term of between one and three years, he added.   McCain is scheduled to appear in DuPage County Circuit Court for a status hearing Feb. 11.   - Downers Grove Reporter   Man tries, fails to rob Citizens Credit Union   ROCKFORD -- Police have arrested a man who they say tried unsuccessfully to rob a credit union this morning.   Dave C. Ball, 44, was arrested and is awaiting charges, police officials said. The attempted robbery happened about 11:15 a.m. at the Citizens Credit Union, 4227 Maray Drive, when a man entered the store, displayed a handgun and demanded money.   When credit union clerks told him they didn't have any cash, he turned around and left, officials said. An armed security guard who was working a neighboring credit union learned of the robbery attempt and held the man at bay until police could take him into custody.   Citizens Credit Union is next door to Credit Union 1, which was held up once in August and again October. Police are investigating the possibility that all three robberies are linked.   - Rockford Register Star   Rockford Police search for armed suspect in hotel robbery   ROCKFORD -- Police are looking for a man who, they say, put a hotel clerk in a closet while he took cash from the register at the Alpine Inn early this morning.   Officials say the man is 6 feet tall and 200 pounds, and was wearing dark glasses, a dark baseball cap and a Cubs jacket about 12:30 a.m. when he fled the hotel, 4404 E. State St.   The lower part of his face was covered, police said. A clerk told police he was wearing pillow cases over his hands and implied he had a handgun but never displayed it. No one was hurt.   Anyone with information on the robbery should call Rockford Police at 815-987-5824 or Crime Stoppers at 815-963-7867.   - Rockford Register Star