- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 24, 2006



Fire displaces six families

A fire early yesterday displaced six families in Aberdeen.

The fire started about 5 a.m. in a three-story, wood-framed apartment building on South Rogers Street.

Two Aberdeen Police Department officers arrived first and rescued several occupants from the second and third floors.

The officers were taken to a Baltimore hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.

The Office of the State Fire Marshal estimated that there was about $350,000 worth of damage.

The agency also said the fire started in a first-floor hallway, and the cause remains under investigation.


Canines trained at prisons

The Maryland Division of Correction is raising its own canine force on site.

A litter of Labrador retrievers was born Nov. 21, marking the first try at breeding and raising dogs at a Maryland prison compound.

Officials came up with the idea because of the demand for dogs by federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies.

Capt. Peter Anderson, commander of the canine unit, said the agency usually buys dogs from private breeders, then trains them.

But adult dogs don’t always adjust well to the confines of prison. He said the idea also could save money.

He estimated that breeding and raising three dogs, the minimum the prison system needs each year, would cost about $2,800.

It would cost about $9,000 to buy the same number from private breeders.


Church fire under investigation

Federal and state investigators are trying to determine the cause of a weekend fire that damaged a Roman Catholic church in Garrett County.

The fire began about 6:30 a.m. on Saturday at St. Anne’s Catholic Church on New Germany Road in Grantsville.

The Office of the State Fire Marshal said that a motorist reported the fire.

Firefighters were on their way back from an unrelated call and were able to respond to the scene quickly.

The fire was extinguished in about 15 minutes. No injuries were reported.

Investigators said the fire may have started in an unoccupied section of the church that was previously used as the rectory.

State investigators are being assisted by agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Deputy fire marshals expect the structure can be salvaged, but Christmas services were expected to be relocated.


Optimism high for teen center

A consultant working on plans for a residential center for homeless teenagers thinks the project can be done.

The Restoration Gardens project has been discussed for three years and is thought to the first of its kind in Maryland.

It’s expected to cost $5 million, including tearing down an old schoolhouse and building 40 efficiency apartments, said Julia Pierson, a consultant hired in June to bring the project to the development stage.

The financing isn’t finished, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Mrs. Pierson thinks that some of the money will come from a combination of low-income housing tax credits, foundation grants and federal money available through the city.

The apartment building also would have common space, including an Internet cafe, a kitchen and a room that can serve as a gathering place.

Adults would be available to provide counseling and supervision.

But the young tenants wouldn’t be evicted for failing to pay rent or other missteps, Mrs. Pierson said.

Residents would live there for three or four years until they have the education or job skills to live on their own.

The project is targeting people 18 to 24 who have no place to live.

Some could be 18-year-olds who have outgrown the foster care system and must leave their families or group homes, while others might have parents who are in prison or who have abandoned them.



Sailors, families reunite at Christmas

A program in Norfolk is helping sailors and their families reunite over the Christmas holiday.

Operation Jingle gives sailors’ families hotel rooms for $10 a night.

The money is then donated to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.

This is the 14th year of operation for the program.

In Hampton Roads, 118 sailors rented rooms with their families.

Among them are David Walters, who sailed the Persian Gulf as a master at arms on the Navy amphibious assault ship Saipan.

The ship returned Friday to Norfolk. His family traveled from Wisconsin to see him for the holidays.


Translator devices help police at stops

The Augusta County Sheriff’s Office is using portable translators during traffic stops to talk with motorists who don’t speak English.

The agency has purchased three battery-operated devices that help in officers’ initial interrogation of drivers. Deputies use the $950 devices daily.

The SpeechGuard devices have the capacity to store more than 3,000 phrases in up to 25 languages.

Sgt. Monty Sellers says it also offers suspects their Miranda rights in a variety of languages, including Chinese, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese.

The device was developed by Ectaco Inc., known for its hand-held dictionaries and translators.

Sgt. Sellers said he already has succeeded in working a drunken-driving case using SpeechGuard.

The device is only an initial aid, and a translator likely would still be needed to assist in each case.


Moose ornament found after 3 years

A 7-foot-tall steel lawn ornament of a moose has been found more than three years after it disappeared from the yard of a Poquoson home.

The two-dimensional ornament was a comforting reminder of home for Maine native Jennifer Sieger.

There were no leads after the September 2003 theft.

However, the 200-pound moose, named Mortimer, recently was found in the woods, leaning against an old tree.

Miss Sieger moved to San Diego about a year and half after the moose went missing.

However, she said she is glad it has been found and is saving a spot in her California yard.

For now, the moose is in the front yard of a Hampton friend and wearing a brightred bow.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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