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Picture 2A Caledonia man was charged after he started a fire that grew so big that it started a tree on fire and he was seen firing his gun into the fire, which was located a near a local tavern on Saturday night, according to a criminal complaint by the Racine County District Attorney’s Office.

Craig Busse, 53, was charged with misdemeanor counts of negligent handling of burning material, disorderly conduct, use of a dangerous weapon, and possession of a firearm while intoxicated.

If convicted on all counts, Busse faces up to one year, nine months in prison, and/or fined up to $21,000.

According to the criminal complaint, officers from the Caledonia Police Department were called to a report of a tree on fire and a person firing a gun into the fire near Burgey’s Pub & Prime, 8619 East Frontage Rd., at 9:54 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13.

A patron at the bar told an employee that he saw a fire near the bar, that a tree was on fire and a person was firing a gun into the fire. The employee saw the same thing and heard  “several loud bangs consistent with gunshots.”

Officers noted that the fire reached about 25-feet up in the air and appeared to be fresh. Several bullet casings were also found on the ground near the fire. Busse lives on the property where the fire happened and police found two unloaded guns that had been recently fired inside the home, according to the criminal complaint.

Busse told police he started drinking at 6:30 p.m. and made the fire at the same time. Burning a mattress, couch and chair, Busse told police initially that he didn’t fire any guns but then changed his statement and told police that he did shoot guns on the property earlier in the day.

“Busse then stated he thought about shooting the guns while by the fire and brought the guns out, but never actually fired them,” according to the complaint. “Busse stated that the loud bangs people heard were when the group threw some old firecrackers into the fire.”

His blood-alcohol content was .09, just about the legal limit of .08.

The next morning, the police found 19 bullet holes in the building next to his bar and that they were not there the day before.

Busse was released on a $500 signature bond. He is expected to have a pre-trial conference at 3:15 p.m. Jan. 22 in front of Racine County Court Commissioner Alice Rudebusch.

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.