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American Scene: Military camp wildfire burns near Utah artillery

- - Wednesday, August 8, 2012

UTAH

SALT LAKE CITY — A wildfire burning on a Utah military installation has officials concerned about the potential it could spread to an area littered with thousands of unexploded shells, which could still detonate.

Utah National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Hank McIntire said Wednesday the wildfire was moving away from an artillery practice area, but it has previously gotten as close as a few hundred yards. Officials worry about what could happen if it marches back.

"We can't actively fight the fire in that area because of the threat to personal safety," Col. McIntire said.

Col. McIntire said the practice area covers hundreds of acres and has collected shells for nearly a century, since 1914. The unexploded shells could still ignite in a wildfire, sending shrapnel flying.

The Pinyon Fire on Utah National Guard's Camp Williams about 40 miles southwest of Salt Lake City has scorched 4.7 square miles since it was started by lightning Sunday. It was 40 percent contained Wednesday morning.

People in nearly 100 homes were forced to flee at one point, but evacuation orders were lifted Tuesday. Some residents had left their homes voluntarily.

CALIFORNIA

Southern Calif. shakes from small earthquakes

YORBA LINDA — Southern California was shaken Wednesday by the second moderate but widely felt earthquake in less than 11 hours, but no harm was reported.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude-4.5 quake occurred at 9:33 a.m. and was centered two miles northeast of the Orange County city of Yorba Linda, about 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

A magnitude-4.5 quake centered in the same area struck late Tuesday night. Both temblors were followed by aftershocks that were mostly too small to be felt.

Quakes of such magnitude are unlikely to cause damage in cities built to modern standards but can rattle nerves.

The Orange County Fire Authority did not receive any 911 calls about the latest quake, said Capt. Marc Stone.

Seismologist Kate Hutton of the California Institute of Technology characterized the quakes as a swarm.

MICHIGAN

Judge: Militia head held long enough

DETROIT — The leader of a southern Michigan militia once accused of plotting a violent rebellion against the government was given no additional time behind bars Wednesday for possessing illegal weapons after serving two years in jail awaiting trial.

Federal prosecutors wanted David Stone to spend at least nine more months in custody. But a defense attorney said even that punishment would be cut short with good behavior and instead disrupt Mr. Stone's attempt to rebuild his life.

"I just ask for your mercy," Mr. Stone told U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts.

The judge agreed, saying prison "would not make much sense."

In March, Judge Roberts acquitted Mr. Stone and seven Hutaree militia members of conspiring to rebel against the government with a violent uprising that would target law enforcement. The judge found no evidence of a specific plan.

It was an embarrassing defeat for the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office in Detroit after months of investigation that involved secretly recorded video and audio, a paid informant, and an undercover agent.

Once the more serious charge was thrown out, Mr. Stone pleaded guilty to possession of a machine gun. He also admitted having an illegal short-barrel rifle.

MASSACHUSETTS

No prison return for skater Kerrigan's brother

WOBURN — A Massachusetts judge Wednesday denied a request by ice skater Nancy Kerrigan's brother to return to prison to serve the last four months of an assault sentence rather than comply with the conditions of his probation.

Mark Kerrigan asked Middlesex Superior Court Judge Kathe Tuttman to send him back to prison to serve the rest of his 21/2-year sentence for assault and battery in connection with the 2010 death of his father.

His attorney told Judge Tuttman the terms of his probation were too much of a financial burden and that he would rather go back to jail than deal with the onerous conditions.

Judge Tuttman denied the request.

"It is not up to Mr. Kerrigan to decide that he wants to serve a sentence rather than serve probation," she said.

She did say that he can talk to the district attorney about any financial issues and return to court if he can't work something out. His probation conditions included alcohol counseling, anger management classes and mental health counseling.

Kerrigan, who did not speak during the 20-minute hearing, was joined by family in court. His sister was not present. He was released early July 27.

NEW YORK

Heart attack likely caused death in lake rescue

CARMEL — A heart attack probably caused the death of a woman whose body was found with a crying 6-year-old clinging to it in the middle of a reservoir, a coroner said Wednesday.

Putnam County Coroner Dr. Hari Chakravorty said an autopsy revealed that Pamela Kaner, a friend of the girl's family, did not drown. The 59-year-old woman suffered from hypertensive heart disease and "did suffer a heart attack," he said.

The finding is preliminary until toxicology tests are completed, he said.

The girl, whose name has not been made public, was rescued Monday when boaters heard her crying on Lake Gleneida in Carmel. They found her holding onto the body, loaded her into their boat and took her to shore.

Carmel Police Chief Michael Johnson said the girl told police that Ms. Kaner, of Brewster, who was caring for her while her mother ran an errand, took her into the water and was holding her when something went wrong.

The bodies of drowning victims usually sink, then return to the surface as they decompose, Chief Johnson said Tuesday. Ms. Kaner's body was retrieved by firefighters, who paddled out in a commandeered boat.

The girl was treated at a hospital but was not seriously injured.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports