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In brief: Colorado’s fire season starts early

Fort Collins, Colo. – A wildfire burning in gusty winds and warm weather in northern Colorado was threatening homes west of Fort Collins on Friday and has prompted more than 50 people to leave the area.

The fire began burning near the visitors center in Lory State Park near the scene of a large wildfire last summer that burned 259 homes and killed one person.

Angela Dietrich, whose home was not in the fire’s immediate path, said the smoke was so bad she couldn’t see her yard from inside the house. She said she was amazed the wildfire sprang up so early in the year.

“This is a really bad start,” she said.

Colorado’s wildfire season also started in March last year.

Oracle CEO buys small Hawaii airline

Honolulu – Larry Ellison bought a small commuter airline in Hawaii in part to ensure it would continue service to the island that is mostly owned by the Oracle Corp. CEO, according to a representative for the billionaire’s personal investment company.

The danger that Island Air could go out of business pushed Ellison’s company to prepare contingency plans in case the airline failed, Lawrence Investments LLC Vice President Paul Marinelli said this week in a telephone interview.

Ellison purchased 98 percent of the land on Lanai from Castle and Cooke Inc. last year.

“There were almost 250 employees that if Mr. Ellison didn’t step forward, I’m not sure they would be still employed,” said Marinelli, who is based in Walnut Creek, Calif.

Marinelli said the purchase also would improve flight connections for residents and visitors. Those travelers would likely stay at the hotels Ellison also bought when he purchased the land on the island.

Albuquerque police chief steps down

Albuquerque, N.M. – The head of Albuquerque’s embattled police department announced Friday he is retiring after an eight-year tenure marred by a spike in fatal police shootings and excessive force cases that critics blamed on a departmental culture that fostered brutality.

Chief Ray Schultz’s announcement comes five months after the U.S. Department of Justice launched a civil rights investigation that was spurred by protests, lawsuits and demands for a wide-scale change.

It came the same day jurors awarded more than $10 million to the family of an Iraq war veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder who was killed by an Albuquerque police officer during a 2010 standoff at a convenience store.

The city has seen a string of officer-involved shootings – 18 of them fatal – since 2010. The department also has been plagued by a number of high-profile cases alleging excessive force. And several officers have been reprimanded for controversial social media postings, including one by an officer involved in a fatal shooting who described his occupation as “human waste disposal.”