Huge Washington wildfire now half contained
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Officials say the massive wildfire that has destroyed about 150 homes in north-central Washington is now more than half contained.
Firefighters made good progress Wednesday as rain and hail fell. The moisture wasn't enough to extinguish the nearly 400-square-mile Carlton Complex of fires, but it gave crews a chance to dig lines along the south and east parts of the fire.
The complex was reported to be 52 percent contained as of Wednesday night, up from 16 percent earlier in the day.
Storms knock down trees, cut power in Spokane
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Severe thunderstorms walloped the Spokane area Wednesday afternoon, knocking trees into houses and cars and cutting power to thousands.
The Spokesman-Review reports that sustained winds of 50 to 70 mph were reported just after 4 p.m. before the system moved into the north part of Spokane County. Large hail was reported by the National Weather Service, and emergency crews were responding to numerous fires as downed power lines, trees and branches disrupted traffic and slowed their responses.
Avista Corp initially reported that 8,800 customers were without power in north Spokane, Colville and the Palouse, but that number swelled to almost 22,000 by early evening.
The storms were part of a broader swath of storms that extended from southeast Washington into the fire zones of Central Washington and northward toward the Canadian border. Officials warned that the rains could cause flash floods in the areas scarred by wildfires in Chelan and Okanogan counties, and that lightning could start additional fires.
Dry, hot weather is expected to return to the state over the weekend.
Seattle police: Homeless arrested most for pot
SEATTLE (AP) - An analysis of the first six months of Seattle police enforcement under new marijuana laws finds homeless people and African American males are more likely to be ticketed for public pot use than anyone else.
The report released Wednesday says officers issued 82 tickets for public possession and use between Jan. 1 and June 30. Most of the citations were issued in public parks in the downtown core, where some homeless people hang out. One person was ticketed twice.
Almost all the people cited are men with an average age of 34. Although more than two-thirds of the people ticketed are younger than 40, people as old as 77 have been ticketed for marijuana infractions during the past six months.
The researchers caution that the numbers and time span of their study make their conclusions preliminary.
1 dead in helicopter crash in Wenatchee
WENATCHEE, Wash. (AP) - One man is dead following the crash of a helicopter that was involved in agricultural work in Wenatchee.
Allen Kenitzer of the Federal Aviation Administration in Renton says the crash occurred on Wednesday for unknown reasons. He says the helicopter was a Bell 206A Jet Ranger.
Chelan County Undersheriff John Wisemore says the lone occupant of the helicopter was a male pilot who died. His name was not immediately released.
Wisemore says the helicopter was involved in agricultural work when it crashed.
Both the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.
Bellevue doctor focus of pimping investigation
SEATTLE (AP) - A Bellevue doctor has taken a voluntary leave of absence amid a federal sex-trafficking investigation.
Seattlepi.com reports that court papers say the doctor, an anesthesiologist based at Overlake Medical Center, is suspected of moving hundreds of thousands of dollars through bank accounts to launder the proceeds of his girlfriend's prostitution ring.
In a search warrant affidavit recently unsealed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent said the doctor came to authorities' attention in 2012 because he had been depositing huge sums of cash at ATMs. The agent said the doctor appeared to have sent the money to Thai bank accounts of women who had recently arrived from Southeast Asia and needed to pay off "debts" they incurred coming to the U.S., and that he also paid to advertise the women on an Internet site.
The doctor has not been charged. The hospital said Wednesday that he was based there but worked for a private-practice anesthesia group, and that patient care had not been compromised.
TACOMA TEACHER SEX
Former Tacoma teacher pleads guilty to child rape
TACOMA, Wash. (AP) - A former Tacoma high school math teacher has pleaded guilty to having sex with two students and communicating with others about sex.
Twenty-five-year-old Meredith Powell pleaded guilty in Pierce County Superior Court on Wednesday to two counts of third degree child rape and one count of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes, all felonies.
The News Tribune reports reports she faces up to five years in prison, but attorneys will recommend a six month sentence plus three years of sex-offender treatment under a program available to first-time offenders.
Powell was arrested in February after allegations arose that she had sexual contact with a number of students. On Wednesday, she admitted she'd engaged in sex acts with two boys between the ages of 14 and 16. Both were students at Lincoln High School.
Powell has resigned and surrendered her teaching certificate.
SEATTLE SUBSTATION FIRE
Power restored around Seattle Center after fire
SEATTLE (AP) - Power was restored to the Space Needle, the monorail and more than 300 other City Light customers near the Seattle Center about two hours after a fire at a nearby substation.
City Light spokesman Scott Thomsen says the fire burned mineral oil in a capacitor bank, which regulates current. He says the cooling oil does not contain toxic PCB.
No one was injured and the cause of the fire is under investigation.
Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore says firefighters who responded about 10 a.m. Wednesday first planned to use foam to smother the fire, but decided the best tactic was to let it burn itself out. They cleared the scene by noon.
Moore says workers at a nearby Highway 99 tunnel portal project evacuated because of thick black smoke.
HASH OIL CHARGES
Federal charges filed following hash oil blasts
SEATTLE (AP) - Seven people face federal charges following several explosions in the Puget Sound area due to hash oil.
U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan announced the charges Tuesday. Durkan said the explosions in Bellevue, Kirkland, Puyallup and Seattle resulted in multiple injuries to innocent bystanders. One of the injured later died due to complications after hospitalization, authorities said.
Durkan said the manufacturing of hash oil remains illegal under state law, even after Washington voters in 2012 approved a measure legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.
The charges include endangering human life while manufacturing controlled substances, maintaining a drug involved premises and manufacturing hash oil and marijuana. Endangering human life while manufacturing controlled substances is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, while maintaining drug-involved premises can bring up to 20 years and manufacturing hash oil can be punishable by up to five years.
Washington denies request to fly drone at Capitol
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - The public affairs network TVW wanted to use a drone to film the state Capitol in Olympia for a documentary on drones.
The state Department of Enterprise Services said no.
The Olympian reports the agency says filming the campus may violate the privacy of tenants and visitors as well as posing an unnecessary public safety risk. It also said the drone could disrupt normal conduct of state business.
TVW hoped to capture the footage for a one-hour documentary it's preparing on the use of drones.
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