National News Jul 15: California Fires, NYC Fire, Shell Oil vessel Drifts

By: AP
By: AP

FORESTHILL, Calif. (AP) -- A wildfire has destroyed a home and is threatening 170 others in Northern California.
State forestry officials say the fire is burning in a steep, heavily wooded area of Placer (PLA'-sur) County about 50 miles northeast of Sacramento. The blaze has grown to three square miles since it broke out Wednesday afternoon.
Officials are expressing concern that the fire could endanger Foresthill, a community of 1,500, if it jumps the American River.
Nine firefighters have been injured in efforts to contain the blaze. Approximately 2,000 firefighters are trying to surround the blaze, but hot weather and rugged terrain are making the job difficult. Crews on the ground are focusing on protecting structures while helicopters and air tankers are attacking flames from the air.
The fire is estimated to be 20 percent contained.
A second fire burning to the northwest is 50 percent contained after consuming about 40 square miles of the Mendocino National Forest.
And farther north, a wildfire in another part of Mendocino National Forest has consumed nearly 40 square miles. It's 55 percent contained.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Fire officials say a heavy blaze at New York City's crowded South Street Seaport shopping spot has been put out without any injuries.
Battalion Chief John Sarrocco said flames enveloped a 100-foot stretch of Pier 17, which was teeming with several hundred people when the fire broke out about 4 p.m. Saturday.
Firefighters used chain saws to remove planks of old timber to get to the flames. Fire marine units on the East River also doused the fire from the water.
A large cloud of smoke that rose over the river could be seen from Brooklyn.
About 140 firefighters responded to the scene. The U.S. Coast Guard also responded.
South Street Seaport's shops and restaurants are a popular tourist-friendly spot.

KODIAK, Alaska (AP) -- The U.S. Coast Guard says a Shell Oil ship slipped its anchorage and began moving toward shore in Alaska's Aleutian Islands before it was re-anchored.
There were concerns that the drilling vessel Noble Discoverer could go aground Saturday evening.
But spokeswoman Sara Francis says the crew was apparently able to move the vessel farther off shore before that occurred.
She says that there were no reports of any injuries, pollution or damage to the vessel.
Francis says a soft seabed that allowed the ship to drag its anchor and strong winds probably contributed to the problem.
The ship is anchored in Unalaska Bay near Dutch Harbor, about 600 miles southwest of Kodiak.
The Noble Discoverer is eventually headed for offshore drilling duty.

WOLFEBORO, N.H. (AP) -- Republican Mitt Romney is talking about his presidential campaign with Oprah Winfrey.
The presumptive GOP nominee and his wife, Ann, met with Winfrey on Friday for an interview that will be published in O, The Oprah Magazine. Romney aides late Saturday said the conversation took place as the Romneys were ready to begin a leisurely weekend at their lakefront house in Wolfeboro, N.H.
The aides would not discuss the interview topics or tone before its publication.
Winfrey in 2007 broke her long-standing rule against supporting politicians and came out for Barack Obama. She became one his strongest advocates and helped him win over female voters.
The former queen of daytime talk shows still supports the Democratic president but doesn't plan to revive her role for him as he seeks re-election.

BOSTON (AP) -- The family of a Boston pastor abducted in Egypt is appealing to his captor to release the 61-year-old man, saying he is a diabetic and the family fears for his health.
The son of Rev. Michel Louis told The Associated Press on Saturday that his father was on a church group trip to retrace Jesus' steps through the Holy Land when he was abducted. Along with him, a 39-year-old Boston woman in the group and a tour guide were kidnapped Friday when an Egyptian Bedouin stopped their bus on a road linking Cairo to Mount Sinai.
Louis' son, Rev. Jean Louis, said the family is concerned about all three and does not want to discuss communications with the U.S. government so as not to jeopardize their chances for release.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Four letters from a South Carolina soldier who served in Vietnam have been returned to his family more than 40 years after his death.
Military representatives of the Army's 101st Airborne Division presented the letters from Sgt. Steve Flaherty of Columbia to his uncle and sister-in-law during a ceremony Saturday.
Flaherty was killed in combat in Vietnam in 1969. Vietnamese soldiers took the letters after Flaherty's death. They were turned over to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last month when he visited Vietnam.
Flaherty's uncle said it was a miracle the letters have turned after all this many years.
The family is donating the letters to a South Carolina military museum that is planning an exhibit honoring the nearly 1,000 South Carolinians who perished in the conflict.

BEND, Ore. (AP) -- An Oregon gas station owner and an Iraqi adventurer trying to fly from Central Oregon to Montana in tandem lawn chairs suspended from party balloons are back on land after having to abort their flight due to thunderstorms.
Kent Couch and Fareed Lafta were about seven hours into their flight when they were forced to descend, coming down about 30 miles east of their starting point.
Flight organizer Mark Knowles says they made a hard landing, and got out of the craft, but it took off again.
The pair began their flight Saturday morning from Couch's gas station in Bend, Ore. It was a warm-up for a future flight over Iraq.

TALKEETNA, Alaska (AP) -- The mayor of a sleepy Alaska town is feline fine.
The part-Manx cat clawed his way onto the political scene of Talkeetna, Alaska, through a write-in campaign shortly after he was born 15 years ago.
KTUU-TV reported Friday that residents didn't like the mayoral candidates years ago, so they encouraged enough people to elect Stubbs as a write-in candidate. The town has nearly 900 residents.
Although his position is honorary, Stubbs' popularity is real. His election earned him enough press to catapult the town at the base of Mount McKinley into a tourist destination.
Residents say they're happy that their stubby-tailed mayor is promoting tourism. The general store where Stubbs hangs out says it gets dozens of tourists a day asking for him.


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