November 20, 2011 in Nation/World

In brief: Reno officials say 32 homes burned

From Wire Reports
 

Reno, Nev. – The estimated number of homes destroyed in a wind-fueled wildfire more than doubled on Saturday to a total of 32, but Gov. Brian Sandoval said it’s a miracle scores more weren’t lost.

A re-evaluation of the 2,000-acre burn on Saturday found much more destruction and damage than initially reported, Reno Fire Chief Mike Hernandez said.

The unusual, out-of-season blaze spread by gale-force winds and ripped through the Sierra foothills early Friday, forcing the evacuation of nearly 10,000 people.

Most started returning to their homes Saturday afternoon.

Investigators suspect the fire was started by arcing power lines.

Environmental group cuts staff

Washington – The weak economy has taken a big bite out of the Wilderness Society, which last week laid off 17 percent of its staff.

Headquartered in Washington, the organization is one of the nation’s most venerable land preservation groups and has been a major force behind the creation and expansion of the federal wilderness system.

After increasing its staff and spending in recent years, the group is retrenching. “The Wilderness Society, like so many other organizations, has been feeling the effects of a down economy, creating budget pressures,” said Kitty Thomas, senior director of advocacy communications. “We had an obligation to meet these financial challenges.”

Thomas declined to provide details of the layoffs but said the staff had been trimmed to 155, about the size it was five years ago.

Sweet love letters spark prison scare

Watertown, N.Y. – Two inmates who tried to sweeten their love letters, quite literally, by adding a sprinkling of sugar to the envelopes accidentally touched off a hazardous-materials scare at a prison in upstate New York.

The Watertown Daily Times reported that authorities noticed something leaking out of the envelopes Friday at the Watertown Correctional Facility, and state police and firefighters were brought in.

In one case it turned out to be sugar. The other was lemonade mix.

The Department of Corrections said one inmate had added sugar to a note telling a woman he was still “sweet” for her. Another inmate did the same thing, telling a woman his love for her was “sweet enough.”

Authorities said both men could be disciplined.

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