Around the region - June 2

Published: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at 9:27 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at 9:27 p.m.


Wildfires rage around town

Wildfires usually conjure up rural images of areas such as pastures and swamps and wooded areas burning, but over the past month, wildfires also have been reported in a dozen locations in Gainesville.

Gainesville Fire Rescue officials said they have responded to more than a half dozen wildfires in the past week alone. That situation has the agency urging people to adhere to the county-wide burn ban that took effect Tuesday.

In a news release about the burn ban, the Risk Reduction bureau chief for the agency, Jeff Lane, said the burn ban will be strictly observed to prevent potential tragedies.

“The dry conditions we have experienced increase our community risk for dangerous fires and damage to structures and, worse still, persons injured from these fires,” Lane wrote.

He also urged residents to quickly report any fire or smoke they see.

Fire officials recommend property owners take the following protective steps:

Clean away dead vegetation and brush within 30 feet of your home or structures.

Clear any debris and combustibles from under or near porches and decks.

Cut the lawn often, keeping the grass at a maximum of 2 inches. Watch grass and other vegetation near the driveway, a source of ignition from automobile exhaust systems.

Clear the area of leaves, brush, evergreen cones, dead limbs and fallen trees.

— Karen Voyles


Woman accused of abusing nephew

A Waldo woman has been charged with child abuse after her 17-year-old nephew said the woman was extremely drunk when she threw a glass wine bottle that hit him on the foot.

Matilda L. Hickey, 51, also was charged with domestic battery following an incident at the Tropix Inn Motel in Waldo late Monday and early Tuesday.

Hickey’s nephew told the Waldo Police Department that when he realized his aunt was intoxicated, he called his mother to come pick him up. He said she told him her car was broken down and could not legally be driven.

His mother’s advice was to call police for help, police reported.

The teen told officers he was outside his aunt’s room trying to call 911 on a cell phone when his aunt jumped on his back and began hitting his arms with her hands in an apparent attempt to get the phone from him. The phone fell to the ground, and dispatchers later confirmed the 911 call was registered as a hang-up.

The teen reported that after he dropped the phone, his aunt got off his back and returned to her room, so he was able to call 911 for help.

Officers arrived within minutes and arrested Hickey. She later was booked into the Alachua County jail.

— Karen Voyles

Suspected auto burglar arrested

A Monday night arrest might have solved dozens of recent vehicle burglaries in the Gainesville area, deputies say.

A Gainesville man suspected of trying to break into cars at an apartment complex told deputies he had committed “at least 100” vehicle burglaries over the past few months.

Aubrey Chase Mathis, 18, was arrested on a charge of burglary of a conveyance by Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Deputies Daniel Qualmann and Richard Beattie.

The deputies were dispatched to Huntington Lakes Apartments at 5400 NW 39th Ave. because a resident noticed someone trying to open car doors. Qualmann and Beattie said they saw Mathis walking from vehicle to vehicle testing door handles.

He was arrested after a short chase, said deputies, and had a pocket full of change, possibly taken from cars he had broken into.

Mathis made his claim of having broken into at least 100 vehicles after being arrested, deputies said. The Sheriff’s Office said Mathis is also a suspect — but has not been charged — in the burglary of his mother’s residence at the apartment complex.

— Karen Voyles

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