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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Wildfire crews head Down Under

Dozens of wildfire specialists from around the West, including a soil erosion expert from Moscow, Idaho, have headed to Australia to help combat massive fires. Multiple blazes have charred more than a million acres in southern Australia, killing about 200 people and leaving 7,000 homeless. The burned area includes the watershed that provides drinking water to metropolitan Melbourne, home to 3.8 million people.

Australian fire suspect identified

MELBOURNE, Australia – A court lifted the ban today on identifying the only arson suspect so far in Australia’s recent deadly wildfires, and authorities urged people not to target him in their rage over the disaster’s more than 180 deaths. The case of Brendan Sokaluk, a 39-year-old man accused of lighting one of hundreds of fires that swept southern Victoria state on Feb. 7, went before a court packed with media and onlookers today, but he chose to stay in police protective custody rather than attend.

Man charged in Australia fire

MELBOURNE, Australia – Authorities charged a man today with lighting one of Australia’s deadly wildfires and whisked him into protective custody amid national fury that arsonists may be to blame in the blazes that left more than 180 people dead. Police said the man was charged with one count of arson causing death and lighting a wildfire near the town of Churchill, one of hundreds that raged through southeastern Victoria state last weekend, police said. He also was charged with possessing child pornography.

Northwest firefighters head to Australia

PORTLAND – About 25 firefighters from the Pacific Northwest will leave for Australia to help fight wildfires. The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center said the firefighters leaving today are from the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the National Park Service.

Firefighter refreshes injured koala caught in Australian wildfire

SYDNEY – It was a chance encounter in the charred landscape of Australia’s deadly wildfires: A koala sips water from a bottle offered by a firefighter. David Tree noticed the koala moving gingerly on scorched paws as his fire patrol passed. Clearly in pain, the animal stopped when it saw Tree.

Toll mounts in Australia

HEALESVILLE, Australia – The deadliest wildfires in Australia’s history burned people in their homes and cars and wiped out entire towns, officials discovered Sunday as they reached further into the fire zone. The death toll rose to 130 by early today. Blazes have been burning for weeks in the southeastern state of Victoria but turned deadly Saturday when searing temperatures and wind blasts created a firestorm that swept across a swath of the region. A long-running drought in the south – the worst in a century – had left forests extra dry and Saturday’s fire conditions were said to be the worst ever in Australia.

World bids adieu to rocky 2008

NEW YORK — Americans are having no problem saying goodbye to 2008 today, but the nation’s economic troubles made many of them less interested in giving it an expensive send-off.

Australian court OKs use of Facebook to serve lien

CANBERRA, Australia – The repo man wants to “poke” you on Facebook. The bill collector is writing on your wall. After a court in Australia ruled a mortgage lender can use Facebook to break the news to a couple that they have lost their home, the global social networking Web sites might have to turn a little more antisocial.