- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 2, 2008

DISTRICT

Union Station cleared after food-court fire

Authorities evacuated Union Station yesterday afternoon because of a small fire in the basement food court.

D.C. fire department spokesman Alan Etter said a fryer used to prepare french fries caught fire at about 3:30 p.m., filling the area with smoke.

The fire caused little damage and no one was injured. The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.

Fans were used to ventilate the station.

MARYLAND

SALISBURY

Woman’s death city’s first homicide

The death of a woman whose body was found in her apartment last month was ruled a homicide — the first reported homicide of 2007, police said.

Police charged Warren Lee Ballard, 43, of Princess Anne, with second-degree murder and first- and second-degree assault in the death of Shirley Ann Smith, 51. Her body was found by a relative Dec. 13. Police said Miss Smith knew Mr. Ballard.

BARNESVILLE

Aged oak pushed as new state tree

Forestry officials in Montgomery County want the state to recognize a giant white oak near Barnesville as the honorary state tree.

The tree — called Flora’s Oak — may be the largest of its kind in Maryland. That would make it the likely successor to the Wye Oak, an ancient white oak on the Eastern Shore that fell during a 2002 storm.

Located on a farm owned by Victor and Linda Pepe, the tree is estimated to be 200 to 300 years old. It stands 107 feet tall with a trunk circumference of more than 22 feet and a crown spread of 115 feet.

The Wye Oak, which was estimated to be 460 years old, was the largest white oak in the United States.

The national champion among white oaks is now a southern Virginia tree, which had a circumference of 26 feet and a crown spread of 116 feet when measured four years ago.

VIRGINIA

ARLINGTON

County Board elects first Hispanic leader

The Arlington County Board elected its first Hispanic chairman.

J. Walter Tejada immigrated to the U.S. from El Salvador when he was 13. He will lead the board at a time when illegal aliens are a major issue in the region.

Mr. Tejada was elected to the five-member board in 2003 and most recently served as its vice chairman. He was named chairman during the board’s traditional New Year’s Day meeting.

As chairman, Mr. Tejada said his priorities will include affordable housing and the environment.

In September, the Arlington board rebuked Northern Virginia politicians who are clamping down on illegal aliens and passed a resolution urging officials to “promote the integration of immigrants.”

REGION

787 use free rides on New Year’s Eve

Nearly 800 New Year’s Eve revelers in the Washington area used a free cab service aimed at preventing drinking and driving.

The Washington Regional Alcohol Program said 787 persons took advantage of the SoberRide program from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. It is the program’s second-highest ridership number for New Year’s Eve. In 2002, SoberRide provided a record 808 rides.

Since SoberRide started its holiday service Dec. 7, it has provided more than 2,500 free rides to residents 21 and older.

The program is offered in the District, and Montgomery, Prince George’s, Arlington, Prince William, Fairfax and eastern Loudoun counties. Corporate sponsors pay cab companies for the rides.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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