N. Calif. fire near Redding destroys 84 buildings

Posted Aug. 23, 2012, at 8:35 p.m.

MINERAL, Calif. — A massive wildfire in Northern California has destroyed more than 80 homes and other buildings and is threatening 900 more.

The state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection on Thursday boosted the total number of structures ravaged by the Ponderosa Fire to 84 from 50.

Spokesman Daniel Berlant says the blaze has consumed 44 square miles of rugged, densely forested land about 30 miles east of Redding since it was sparked by lightning Saturday. The fire was 57 percent contained Thursday.

About 2,500 firefighters are battling the raging fire near small towns in Shasta and Tehama counties.

The blaze is one of several major fires burning across the western U.S. In Washington state, fire crews still hoped to fully contain a week-old wildfire that has destroyed 51 homes and 26 outbuildings and damaged at least six other homes, authorities said. The fire, about 75 miles east of Seattle, has caused an estimated $8.3 million in property damage.

In central Idaho, firefighters started a burnout operation near the town of Featherville to deny an approaching wildfire the fuel it would need to reach hundreds of homes that were evacuated last weekend.

Capital still a bit shaken a year after 5.8 quake

WASHINGTON — One year after a rare 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook the Washington, D.C., region, the Washington Monument remains closed for repairs and other reminders are still visible: Netting hangs from the ceiling at Union Station, and scaffolding is still in place at the Washington National Cathedral.

The Washington Monument could stay closed until 2014 as it undergoes $15 million in repairs. Restoration of the cathedral, one of the hardest hit buildings, is expected to take five to 10 years and cost at least $20 million.

The D.C. area Thursday marked the anniversary with events including the ringing of bells at the cathedral and school earthquake drills at 1:51 p.m., the time of the temblor.

The Aug. 23, 2011, temblor was among the largest in the region in the last century, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. As much as a third of the U.S. population may have felt the earthquake, more than any other earthquake in U.S. history, with reports coming from southeastern Canada to Florida.

The quake caused an estimated $200 million to $300 million in damage, according to the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium.

Vermont inn, 2 women settle gay marriage lawsuit

MONTPELIER, Vt. — Two New York women and a Vermont country inn have settled a lawsuit that accused the business of refusing to host the couple’s wedding reception.

The American Civil Liberties Union said Thursday the Wildflower Inn in Lyndonville agreed to pay a $10,000 civil penalty to the Vermont Human Rights Commission and to place $20,000 in a charitable trust.

Under the settlement, the inn also agreed it would no longer host weddings and their receptions. The innkeepers’ lawyer, Jim Campbell, said they had decided previously to end that part of their business.

Vermont was the first state to pass a law allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions in 2000. It enacted gay marriage in 2009.

NH GOP candidate apologizes for abortion comment

MANCHESTER, N.H. — A New Hampshire businessman running for sheriff has apologized for saying he wouldn’t rule out the use of deadly force to halt an abortion.

Republican Frank Szabo of Goffstown had said he believes elective abortions are unlawful and he’d arrest any doctor who performs them. He was asked recently if he’d use deadly force to prevent abortions and said a sheriff should do “everything” in his power to prevent them from happening.

He retracted his comments Thursday, saying he let his passionate stance against abortion “get the better” of him. He says he wouldn’t use lethal force against an abortion doctor.

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