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Alachua County Fire Rescue firefighters Mark Steen, left, and Lt. James Bendel, center, work to extinguish a garbage fire on Monday morning in front of Station No. 19. The fire originated in the truck of Southland Waste Systems driver James A. Jones Sr., right, who noticed the fire and drove to the front of the fire station. The entire load of garbage had to be dumped out in order to get to the fire.

TRISTAN MAHER / Special to Sun
Published: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 at 12:37 a.m.

Fatal fire is believed to have been accidental

  • LAKE CITY - Investigators believe that a Saturday morning house fire that left one person dead and another critically injured was accidental.
    A medical examiner has not confirmed the identity of the person who died at 603 Wilson Street, Police Capt. Gary Laxton said Monday. But it's believed to have been a woman in her early 40s who lived at the home.
    Rescuers found another person, Emanuel Terry Mathews, 55, on his hands and knees trying to escape from the fire, Laxton said. Firefighters were alerted about the blaze about 1 a.m. and arrived to find the single-family, wooden home engulfed in flames.
    Mathews, Laxton said, was listed in critical condition Monday with burns over about 30 percent of his body.
    The cause of the fire remains under investigation, Laxton said. A preliminary review, however, indicated it was accidental. Investigators noted there were several space heaters in the house and that temperatures had dipped early Saturday into the teens and low 20s.
    - Lise Fisher

    Stolen vehicle ends up in Levy County accident

  • CHIEFLAND - A vehicle stolen during a carjacking in Alachua County ended up in a Levy County car accident that injured three people late Sunday.
    Deputies reported an Archer woman's 1998 Chevrolet Suburban was taken Sunday evening from a grocery store parking lot after two juveniles threatened her with a knife and demanded her keys.
    Officers in Levy County spotted the stolen vehicle and pursued it south on NE 4th Street, the Florida Highway Patrol reported. The vehicle's driver did not stop at a stop sign, and the Chevrolet hit a van heading west on E. Park Avenue. Wayne Thomas Dicks, 60, and Betty H. Dicks, 59, both of Lake City, and Esslelen Henderson, 80, of Chiefland, who were all in the van, were injured, FHP Lt. Mike Burroughs said Monday.
    The driver of the stolen vehicle ran away from the scene of the accident, which occurred about 10:45 p.m., Burroughs said. Investigators were searching for him Monday.
    A 14-year-old who was a passenger in the stolen Chevrolet is under investigation in connection with the carjacking, the Alachua County Sheriff's Office reported.
    - Lise Fisher

    Firefighters contain 60-acre brush blaze

  • McINTOSH - A 60-acre brush fire was contained but not out Monday night in northern Marion County.
    The brush fire started shortly before 2:30 p.m. north of County Road 320 and west of Interstate 75, said Jeff Tabor, duty officer at the Florida Division of Forestry. It produced a column of smoke that could be seen in Gainesville.
    The cause was unknown and under investigation Monday night, Tabor said. No homes were threatened.
    On Sunday, five brush fires burned nearly eight acres across five counties in the Gainesville district, according to the Division of Forestry daily activity report. Areas of the Panhandle fared worse, with 85 acres burned in one district and 31 acres in another district.
    - Kathy Ciotola COMMUNITY

    Wal-Mart supercenter topic of meeting tonight

  • Officials associated with Wal-Mart will hold a neighborhood meeting tonight to discuss a proposed development that would include a Wal-Mart supercenter in Gainesville.
    Wal-Mart confirmed earlier this month it wants to build a supercenter at the intersection of NW 53rd Avenue and NW 13th Street. If its plans are approved by the city, it would close its current store, located about two miles south on NW 13th Street.
    The 94-acre development would include stores, restaurants and housing.
    The meeting will be held from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church, 4000 NW 53rd Ave.
    - Ashley Rowland

    Starke commissioner is leaving for Tallahassee

  • STARKE - A change in administration at the Florida Department of Corrections will have a trickledown effect on the City Commission.
    Recently appointed department Secretary James Crosby - himself a former commissioner for Starke - has promoted City Commissioner Janice Mortimer to be his executive assistant.
    Mortimer, whose full-time employment has been with the department since 1990, is in the process of relocating to Tallahassee to take her new job. Her resignation from the City Commission will be effective Feb. 1.
    Mortimer has served eight years on the commission, including two stints as Starke's mayor. Under the city's charter, the remaining 2 years in Mortimer's term could be filled by a mayoral appointment or special election.
    Commissioners are expected to call for a special election and set the date for it during their next meeting on Feb. 4
    - Karen Voyles

    Public to get look at highway expansion

  • BRONSON - The Florida Department of Transportation will hold an open house Wednesday to give motorists a look at the next and final phase of upgrading Alt. U.S. 27.
    The department is near the end of a 5-year program to expand the state highway from two to four lanes from the Levy-Marion county line to Chiefland. Work will begin on the final 6.2-mile section within a week and should take about a year to complete.
    Transportation officials are holding the open house to show interested residents what to expect from the final phase of the road-widening project. Plans and drawings will be on display during the open house from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. Wednesday at Bronson Town Hall.
    - Karen Voyles

    Sorensen's replacement at Alabama is named

  • TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The soft-spoken president of the University of Texas-Arlington, Robert E. Witt, was named the 36th president of the University of Alabama on Monday.
    The University of Alabama System board of trustees unanimously chose Witt to replace Andrew Sorensen, the former University of Florida provost who left Alabama last year to be president of the University of South Carolina.
    The other finalists were John C. Hitt, president of the University of Central Florida, and Jon Whitmore, provost of the University of Iowa.
    - The Associated Press

    Canker compensation compared to CSA money

  • FORT LAUDERDALE - A judge who must decide whether $100 Wal-Mart cards can be used as compensation for trees lost to the state's citrus canker eradication program compared them Monday to Confederate money.
    Circuit Judge J. Leonard Fleet didn't immediately rule on the issue, saying he wanted to wait until all parties have filed arguments to render a decision.
    But he did compare the cards to legal tender issued in the past that today has no legal worth. He said the Constitution prohibits states from issuing their own currency.
    "That Wal-Mart card has no more value than scrip issued by the Confederacy in the Civil War," Fleet said.
    Florida law provides for property owners to receive compensation for trees taken, and the Department of Agriculture contracted with Wal-Mart for the vouchers. A Broward County lawsuit has challenged the law.
    - The Associated Press
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