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    One person has been found dead in Carlsbad, a day after an intense blaze scorched a twisting path through the community, ravaging homes and forcing thousands to evacuate.

    The grim discovery Thursday evening marked the first death in the rash of fires that have ripped through the San Diego area in the past three days amid high winds, extreme heat and dry conditions.

    Firefighters found the victim's badly burned body while they were performing a hot spot check in a known transient encampment near Ambrosia and Calliandra, about two miles west of where the 400-acre Poinsettia Fire -- now called the San Diego Complex -- first sparked.

    All evacuations were lifted in Carlsbad late Thursday, allowing residents to return home more than a day after that blaze began devastating the area.

    Officials said 18 condos, four single-family homes and two commercial buildings burned in the fire. Six more homes and one other structure were also damaged.

    "I'm alive, and that's how you have to look at it," said one man who watched his home go up in flames.

     

    About 300 firefighters were on the front lines of the fire that has burned 400 acres Thursday morning. As of Friday morning, the fire was 85 percent contained.

    On Wednesday, the county issued 15,000 evacuation notices by contacting people at homes, cell phones and businesses in the area wast of El Fuerte Road, south of Palomar Airport Road, north of Aviara Parkway and west to the coast.

    Major roadways throughout Carlsbad were opened by 6 p.m. Thursday. However, limited access has been granted to Ambrosia Lane to facilitate support for safety personnel, officials said.

    Legoland California closed early Wednesday but was open Thursday.

    Fire officials are investigating the cause of the Poinsettia Fire and multiple other brush fires that sparked in San Diego County on Wednesday. Anyone who noticed suspicious activity that could have started the fire is asked to call 760-602-7599 or email PoinsettiaFire@carlsbadca.gov.


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    Donald Sterling is refusing to pay a $2.5 million fine the NBA handed down in response to racist comments made by long-time Los Angeles Clippers owner, according to published reports.

    NBC4 has reached out to the NBA, but the league, which has also banned Sterling for life and is trying to force a sale of his team, would not comment on the reports by USA Today and several other publications. A league spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Los Angeles Times the league had received the letter.

    NBC4 has not received a response after attempts to contact Sterling's attorney.

    Sterling's attorney wrote a letter to the NBA informing the league of the decision, according a report citing a "person with first-hand knowledge of the letter" who requested anonymity. The fine, announced by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver April 29, violates Sterling's due process rights, the letter states, according to the report.

    The deadline for paying the fine was earlier this week. The letter was sent Thursday, according to USA Today.

    The letter also indicated Sterling will sue if he is not afforded due process, according to the reports.

    Silver has urged the NBA's other 29 owners to back a move to oust Sterling, 80, as team owner. Sterling has owned the Clippers since 1981 and is the league's longest-tenured team owner.

    The fine and ban were issued in response to racist comments made by Sterling during a recorded conversation with a companion, whom he chastises for posting Instagram pictures of herself posing with black people, including Lakers legend Magic Johnson. He also can be heard telling the woman not to bring Johnson to Clippers games.

    The recording was posted on TMZ.com late last month, prompting an NBA investigation that determined Sterling made the comments.

    His termination would require a three-fourths vote by NBA owners. The process so far has included a series of meetings by the league's 10-member finance/advisory committee to discuss the timeline and process for removal.

    The NBA Constitution and bylaws guide the process by which ownership is terminated. It gives owners and the commissioner broad powers regarding team ownership termination when the owner's actions affect the "Association or its members adversely."

    The comments drew threats of an NBA boycott, sponsorship withdrawals and backlash from current and former players.

    Sterling's estranged wife, Rochelle Sterling, has said she plans to fight for her stake in the team. The NBA released a statement last week that said if a controlling owner's interest is terminated by a three-fourths vote of the other league owners, "all other team owners' interests are automatically terminated as well. It doesn't matter whether the owners are related as is the case here.  These are the rules to which all NBA owners agreed to as a condition of owning their team."

    The Clippers' most successful season in team history came to an end Thursday night with a loss to Oklahoma City in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals.



    Photo Credit: Getty

    Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald SterlingLos Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling

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    The University of Hartford has given the all clear after ordering students to shelter in place Thursday night.

    Students received an emergency text message to seek immediate shelter and lock the doors.

    Hartford Police tell NBC Connecticut that a car accident at Sigourney Street & Albany Avenue triggered police activity in the area that later spilled onto the campus. Police say there was no imminent threat and the shelter in place was a precautionary measure.

    Most undergraduate students have already left campus for summer vacation.

    Graduation is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

    Police said they caught a suspect off-campus and he has been charged with evading responsibility.


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    Students are battling with a Connecticut university over complaints that the school has been painting over student murals with no notice.

    Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) has built up one of the largest mural collections in the country since the program started in 2001. But Professor Mike Alewitz, who oversees CCSU’s mural painting program, said that collection is at risk.

    The school has painted over six of the murals without notice and plans to do the same with another 12, Alewitz said Richard Bachoo, director of operations, confirmed. He said he hopes an appeal to the university and community support will protect the remaining murals.

    “It made them feel part of the larger world, that they weren't looking at blank walls inside an institution, but they were looking at the hopes and dreams of young people,” Alewitz said. “We found out that 18 murals were scheduled to be destroyed.”

    CCSU told NBC Connecticut Thursday night that it's looking to make improvements to the Copernicus Hall building, and painting over the murals there is part of the plan.

    Many students are outraged and turned to NBC Connecticut.

    “I was just baffled. Don't know why -- there's no reason behind it,” student Damian Ostrowski said.

    But CCSU policy says that murals are not intended to be permanent. The university distributed its mural policy, which says that murals will remain in place for one semester unless an extension is granted. The policy has been in place “for a number of years” and hasn’t been edited since the complaints, according to the university. The Art Department is expected to keep records of the murals and their completion dates, CCSU said.

    “In the event that the mural will be in place for longer than one semester, the Facilities Planning Committee will review the requests on a case-by-case basis,” the existing policy states.

    Alewitz disagrees with the university.

    "Aside from the censorship of two controversial pieces, there seems to be no logic to the selection of these particular artworks for removal," Alewitz said in a news release Friday.

    He says in the 14 years the mural program has existed, the policy has never been implemented in this way. Alewitz said in a statement that this is "the largest destruction of public art in recent history." While administrators have removed murals in the past, they normally consult with the art department first, he said.

    "The real policy has been that people love the murals, so when they've been painted, they've stayed up,” Alewitz said.

    Alewitz does acknowledge some controversy over multiple murals through the years but says they've been mistakenly classified as anti-war and propaganda. He understands people see art differently, so he's fighting to preserve that opportunity.

    "This is a crime against not just the artist but the entire community and the state, so I want them to stop it,” he said.

    Alewitz said the president of the university’s faculty union told him the university will temporarily stop painting over the murals. He awaits the university’s decision for the remaining murals.

    You can view more of the murals online by clicking on the link provided.



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

    CCSU is painting over some student murals and the art community is fighting to keep them up.CCSU is painting over some student murals and the art community is fighting to keep them up.

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    An employee of a small pharmacy in Waterbury has been arrested, accused of stealing thousands of pills by stuffing them in her pants and shirt.

    In April, Stoll’s Pharmacy conducted an audit that revealed discrepancies, including missing  oxycodone and Percocet pills, pharmacy owner Edward Schreiner Jr. said. 

    State police and a task force that includes the Drug Enforcement Agency started investigating and authorities set up surveillance.

    The video revealed a pharmacy technician, Aracelis Virella, 49, stealing bottles of pills from a safe, Schreiner said.

    She was charged with second-degree larceny, possession of narcotics and possession with intent to sell. She is being held on $500,000 bond and is due in court on June 4. It is not clear if she has an attorney.

    The audit revealed that around 20,000 pills are missing, but surveillance showed Virella taking around 2,500 pills, according to the Republican-American.

    The newspaper obtained a copy of the arrest warrant, which includes witness reports of Virella wearing expensive clothes and bragging about going to the casino.

    Schreiner said there was no evidence that there was any theft outside of the pharmacy’s inventory and he said  customers received the full amount of their prescriptions and they were properly filled.



    Photo Credit: Connecticut Department of Corrections

    Aracelis Virella is accused of stealing thousands of pills from the pharmacy she works at.Aracelis Virella is accused of stealing thousands of pills from the pharmacy she works at.

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    A time-lapse video of the construction of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at ground zero documents the decade-long completion of the project in two and a half minutes.

    EarthCam released the video as the museum was dedicated this week. The HD video captures the construction of the museum and the memorial's two reflective pools from groundbreaking to completion.

    “It’s been a monumental effort to have these cameras running for over 13 years,” said Lisa Kelly, public outreach director at EarthCam. “We’re just glad we could be part of showcasing the recovery and the construction work.”

    The project started just days after 9/11 when EarthCam’s CEO Brian Cury trained a camera on ground zero to capture the recovery effort, Kelly said.

    More cameras were later installed at different angles on the roof of the Millennium Hilton hotel to document the construction of the museum, which is built below ground in what was once the World Trade Center basement.

    “The location gave us perfect view of the full 16 acres of the job site,” Kelly said.

    For 4,617 days, from October 2004 to May 2014, cameras took still shots of the site every five minutes.

    It took weeks for several editors and two archivists to sift through more than a million images to assemble the commemorative two-minute, 39-second video.

    “This project was important for our company because we’re a local company and some of our employees were affected by 9/11,” Kelly said. "We wanted to contribute to the recovery and we thought it was important to provide documentation of all the effort that was put into rebuilding lower Manhattan."



    Photo Credit: AP

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    A man on a mission to drink a beer in every Connecticut town to raise money for cancer research and treatment is about halfway to his goal.

    Todd Ruggere, of Grafton, Massachusetts, has visited 81 of the 169 towns in the state so far on his CT Pour Tour. He has raised $20,000 so far for Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven to help pediatric cancer patients.

    After seeing many commercials on television promoting support of child cancer patients, Ruggere said he wanted to help.

    “I wanted to find a cool way to raise money for cancer,” Ruggere.

    Last year, he said “it just hit me one day.” Looking at a map of Massachusetts, he was surprised to see towns he never knew existed like Florida and Peru. The pour tour was also a way for him to explore parts of his home state he’d never visited. Ruggere stopped at 351 Massachusetts towns in 2013 to have a beer, raising $40,000 to help combat children’s cancer.

    WHDH, an NBC affiliate news station in Boston, aired the first interview with Ruggere about his mission and from there it went viral, he said.

    Ruggere didn’t want to stop there.

    “I knew I wanted to do another state,” Ruggere said.

    Like Florida and Peru in Massachusetts, Ruggere has learned of some unique Connecticut town names, as well, including Bozrah and Scotland, which he hasn’t been to yet. One of his favorite parts of the state was the Northwest corner.

    He started the tour at Two Roads Brewing Co. in Stratford, a place he’d never been to before. Now Two Roads is his sponsor. And what’s his favorite beer on the tour so far? Two Roads’ new raspberry-flavored Road Jam beer.

    At each town on the pour tour, he stops into a local brewery, bar or even another fundraiser to have a beer, inviting locals to join him and donate if they’d like. Many of the venues put his photo on the wall to advertise that he’s coming in case people want to participate. Many bars and breweries are contacting him extending invitations to stop by on the Pour Tour.

    People are responding well to the CT Pour Tour, he said. One person came to his stop in New Canaan to donate $10,000 to the cause.

    So far, Ruggere has visited the following towns on his pour tour – Salisbury, North Canaan, Colebrook, Cornwall, Goshen, Torrington, Warren, Litchfield, Washington, Morris, Bethlehem, Watertown, Woodbury, Middlebury, Oxford, Monroe, Woodbridge, Granby, East Granby, Canton, Avon, West Hartford, Burglington, Plymouth, Bristol, Plainville, Wolcott, Southington, Berlin, Cromwell, Windsor, East Windsor, South Windsor, East Hartford, Glastonbury, Bolton, Andover, Columbia, Windham, Union, Woodstock, Pomfret, Brooklyn, Killingly, Sterling, Voluntown, Ridgefield, Danbury, Bethel, Bridgeport, Woodbridge, West Haven, Prospect, Cheshire, Meriden, Middlefield, Middletown, Wallingford, North Haven, Branford, Deep River, Essex, Salem, Montville, Waterford, Norwich, Lisbon, Preston, Ledyard, Groton, North Stonington and Stonington.

    He plans on visiting the southern tail of Connecticut in the Fairfield County region next.

    What’s next after CT Pour Tour?

    Ruggere said that he hopes to take his fundraising tour nationwide. He is currently looking for sponsors to make a 50-state pour tour possible. The plan is to drink at least a beer in each state and raise money to donate to children’s cancer hospitals located in each state.

    Ruggere is looking for your tips on potential tour stops. You can text him at 781-974-9428 or email him at toddy351@yahoo.com.

    Information on the CT Pour Tour and Ruggere's scheduled stops is available at CTpourtour.com. Donations can be made online or in person at a CT Pour Tour stop. You can also follow him @CTpourtour on Twitter and like his CT Pour Tour Facebook page.



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

    Todd Ruggere is halfway done with his CT Pour Tour mission to drink a beer in each of Connecticut's towns to raise money to fight cancer.Todd Ruggere is halfway done with his CT Pour Tour mission to drink a beer in each of Connecticut's towns to raise money to fight cancer.

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    An 8-year-old western Pennsylvania girl is recovering after a driver fleeing police sent a parked car careening into her as she rode her scooter, in a horrifying crash caught on surveillance video.

    But even as Cassidy Wall recovers, that video still upsets her, she says.

    "When I saw the video, every time I thought about it, I started crying," she said. "It hurted my feelings, and I didn’t like what I saw."

    "I fell and flew in the air, and I landed on my head," Cassidy told NBC affiliate WICU.

    Cassidy and her 5-year-old sister Zmyiah were playing out front of their home near the corner of East 29th and German Streets in Erie, Pennsylvania, on May 9 when a police pursuit zoomed past.

    The fleeing vehicle struck a parked car -- flinging it up onto the sidewalk, where the Cassidy was riding her scooter.

    "The car crashed… then she (Cassidy) got hit," Zmyiah -- who was heading down the front steps at the time of the crash and was able to avoid being hit -- told WICU. "She flew all the way up in the sky and fell on her head."

    Despite the violent impact, Cassidy only suffered a concussion and was back up  a few days later.

    Police eventually caught up to the men they say were in the car at the time, arresting suspected driver Angello Moore and passenger Brandon Carlson.

    Moore, 18, was sent to county jail, unable to post $125,000 bail. He faces 22 counts, including fleeing police, aggravated assault by vehicle, reckless endangerment, drug possession and related charges, according to court documents.

    Carlson, 18, faces firearm and marijuana charges. He remains jailed, unable to post $20,000 bail, according to online court records.

    Surveillance video released earlier this week shows Cassidy being rammed by the out-of-control car.

    "I was terrified... I still [am] terrified," Cassidy's father Delorean Wall told WICU. "As a father, you don't want that to happen to your children. It's crazy."



    Photo Credit: Surveillance Image

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    Students showed up wearing neckties and bowties to a private San Francisco Catholic school on Friday in support of a senior girl who wore a tux in her school photo – a photo they believe won’t appear in the yearbook.

    The brother of Jessica Urbina, a senior at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, told NBC Bay Area he was informed Thursday by someone at the school that his sister's picture would appear "altered" in the yearbook.

    That possibility has sparked not only the ties but also a hashtag campaign, #JessicasTux, by her classmates as they rally to support her.

    Their campaign comes as support has coalesced nationwide in recent years for students who have faced discipline for breaking dress codes on campus, and as the nation grapples with changes, and challenges, to gender norms.

    "Students should be able to wear a tux regardless if they are male or female," said American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California attorney Elizabeth Gill. "Schools shouldn't make students conform to outdated norms of what boys and girls dress like, not taking into consideration who they are."

    The ACLU has not been called in to help with this matter, but the agency has fought - and even won - on behalf of students who attend schools that receive state or federal funding and who have discriminated based on gender stereotyping.

    While Jessica has declined interviews, her brother is speaking on her behalf.

    “I was notified that SHCP will 'represent' my sister by having an alternative picture listed in the yearbook,”  Michael Urbina said on Friday by phone, repeating what he posted on his Facebook page.

    Michael Urbina declined to say more until he could meet with administrators, hopefully later on Friday or Monday. Neither he nor his sister has seen a yearbook, since they don't come out until next week.

    The school, for its part, has not given a definitive answer on whether Jessica's image will appear altered in any way.

    Principal Gary Cannon said he couldn't say much, citing a student's right to privacy, but indicated that he had previous talks with Jessica about what was allowed in the photo, and what was not.

    According to the school policy regarding yearbook photos, girls must wear “drapes,” and boys must wear a shirt, tie and jacket.

    Cannon did insist Jessica was in the yearbook, though he wouldn't comment exactly how she would apear. The school's website reads in part: "As we prepare to pass out yearbooks it is always regretful when a student portrait is omitted for any reason. As a community we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that all students are included in the future."

    “Every student, every senior, is in the yearbook,” he said outside the school, which promotes the slogan, “Fearless, we pursue excellence.”

    “It has to do with the ‘senior portrait issue’ and the regulations that we have. Those policies are clearly laid out," he added.

    He added that all this attention on gender and equality issues might have administrators reconsidering their yearbook dress code.

    “That doesn’t mean you don’t reassess your policies,” he said.

    While finding out exactly how Jessica will be remembered as she looked in the Class of 2014 isn’t fully known, what is clear is that she has many friends who support her dressing in a way traditionally associated with men -- something they say she does “all the time.” 

    On Twitter, friends said they wanted to show how their former high school “the errors of its ways,” and that “Jessica roks!!”

    Certified $uperwoman tweeted: “Hope every student shows up with a tie on at S.H. cuz it sends a message to Archdiocese that they are the ones teaching hate. #JessicasTux.”

    The tuxedo issue in San Francisco has similar echoes from coast to coast. In March, the ACLU sued on behalf of gay students in San Bernandino County who had been told they needed to wear "gender-specific" attire for prom and yearbook photos.

    That's similar to a case four years ago in which the ACLU sued a high school in Wesson, Mississippi, for excluding Ceara Sturgis’ name and senior portrait from her yearbook because she had worn a tux. In 2011, her family settled with the district, adding her photo - in a tuxedo - to the wall of senior photos and changing its senior photo policy.

    And in 2010, Sarah Lloyd was finally allowed to wear a tuxedo in her yearbook photo, after a battle between school board members in Arkansas.

    In the Bay Area, friends and strangers alike rallied behind Sasha Fleischman after the teen - who was born a biological boy but identifies with neither sex - was severely burned when somebody set "their" skirt on fire on a bus in November. Supporters paid tribute to Sasha's freedom to express their gender identity by dressing up in skirts and covering the city in rainbows. Sasha prefers to be referred to in the plural.

    Tatiana Richardson wants her friend, Jessica, to feel that kind of support.

    That's why she helped create the hashtag campaign to get her peers to wear ties to school. She showed up to campus in a bright pink bowtie.

    “I know this goes against tradition, but times are a-changing," Richardson said outside school. "It’s not  just 'boys and girls' now, there is so much more. They teach at this Catholic school to be who were are, to accept everybody, so that’s what we’re doing.”

     

    Tatiana Richardson, a friend of Jessica Urbina's, who wore a tie to school to support her friend who wore a tux in her yearbook photo. May 16, 2014.

     


    Jessica Urbina (left) in tuxedo she wore for senior class picture at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prepatory courtesy of her brother, Michael Urbina. Students at Sacred Heart wear ties to school in support of Jessica. May 16, 2014Jessica Urbina (left) in tuxedo she wore for senior class picture at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prepatory courtesy of her brother, Michael Urbina. Students at Sacred Heart wear ties to school in support of Jessica. May 16, 2014

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    Police are investigating a one-car crash on West Avon Road in Avon.

    The accident occurred near the intersection where Route 167 turns into Harris Rd.

    Farmington police have shut down West Avon Road at Route 4 in Unionville and Farmington firefighters are responding for mutual aid.

    Avon police have not released information on any injuries.

    More information will be provided when it becomes available.

     


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    New Haven line service has been restored on Metro-North, but commuters should expect residual delays of 30 to 60 minutes.

    Train service was temporarily suspended in both directions between Stamford, Connecticut and Rye, New York on Friday morning while maintenance crews worked to repair catenary wire damage.

    Get more information on the MTA Web site.


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    Meriden police and firefighters are at the scene of a crash in Meriden where a car struck a pregnant  woman walking on the road.

    The accident happened around 4 p.m. near the intersection of Broad and Liberty streets in Meriden.

    The pedestrian lost conciousness but has since regained it and suffers lacerations to the head.

    The woman was taken to Yale New Haven Hospital for treatment. Police have not released the woman's identity at this time.

    Traffic will be slow at the busy intersection and police may have to close it down to one lane.

    More information will be provided when it becomes available.


    A pregnant woman was hit by a vehicle at the intersection of Broad and Liberty Streets in Meriden on Friday afternoon.A pregnant woman was hit by a vehicle at the intersection of Broad and Liberty Streets in Meriden on Friday afternoon.

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    A 20-year-old Woodbury man has been charged in connection with a fiery crash on Route 317 in Woodbury last summer that killed two men.

    Aidan Panagrosso, 20, of Woodbury has been charged with reckless driving, illegal racing on the highway and reckless endangerment, according to state police.

    Police took him into custody on Friday.

    At 10:30 p.m.on the night of June 4, 2013, police, firefighters and EMS responded to the crash scene and found a 2003 Volkswagen Jetta.

    Nicholas Aleia, 19, of Bethlehem, was driving when the car spun out of control and caught fire, according to state police.

    Aleia, and the passenger, David Metcalf, 21, of Woodbury, were trapped in the car and died at the scene, police said. 

    Both victims attended Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury. Metcalf graduated in 2009 and Aleia graduated in 2012, according to Principal Andrew O'Brien.  Both participated in the school's agriscience program.

    Panagrasso was released on a $2,500 bond and is due in Waterbury Court on May 21.



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

    Two men were killed in a crash in Woodbury and another man has been charged.Two men were killed in a crash in Woodbury and another man has been charged.

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    A New York City cab driver has been suspended, accused of wearing a swastika armband while on duty.

    The 27-year-old driver from the Bronx was suspended by the Taxi and Limousine Commission on May 9 after the agency investigated a customer's complaint. He will not be allowed to drive a taxi for 30 days. 

    A TLC official said the driver violated a "proper conduct" rule which states that drivers must not "act against the best interests of the public."

    As part of its investigation, the agency obtained photos that they say showed him wearing the swastika armband on his left arm while driving in Manhattan.

    In a statement Friday, the Anti-Defamation League applauded the TLC's "swift investigation and successful prosecution of this outageous and inflammatory gesture by a taxicab driver."

    "By openly displaying this hate symbol identified with Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party while operating a New York City taxicab, the driver sent a frightening and offensive message to New Yorkers about who might be welcome – and unwelcome – in the taxicab he was driving," the statement continued.

    The driver has been operating a New York City taxi since November 2011, according to the TLC. 
     



    Photo Credit: Anti-Defamation League

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    Crews battled intense brush fires around San Diego for a fourth day Friday, as officials warned that the state's severe drought could lead to more outbreaks like the torrent of blazes that have ripped through parts of the county this week.

    The rash of fires, which peaked at nine separate blazes at once earlier in the week, marked an unusually early and aggressive start to California’s summer wildfire season. The flames charred more than 10,000 acres, destroyed at least eight homes and forced tens of thousands to flee their neighborhoods.

    While officials have not yet identified causes for the San Diego blazes, months of drought have led to extreme dry conditions that leave "nothing but kindling for these fires," as one local official said this week.

    “We're seeing an unfortunate effect of what's happening with this drought,” Thomas Porter, Cal Fire's assistant southern region chief, told reporters Thursday evening.
    California is under a drought emergency declared earlier this year by Gov. Jerry Brown. The state faces a third consecutive dry year, and low snowpack measurements point to many more dry months ahead.
     
    A recent U.S. Drought Monitor report found the entire state was facing moderate to exceptional drought, a first in the Drought Monitor’s 15-year history. The latest report found extreme drought conditions present in nearly 77 percent of the state, with a quarter of the state under exceptional drought conditions.
     
    Those months of extreme dryness have created "dead vegetation and fuels that are very volatile," Porter said, and compounding the fire risk was unseasonable weather. Extreme heat and high winds in the region further stoked the flames, sending fires ripping through more than 10,000 acres — about 15 square miles — in a span of just four days.
     
    The latest fires follow an uptick in fire activity all year that has prompted Cal Fire to increase staffing throughout the state. In March, the agency said fire activity was 200 percent higher than average statewide.
    “We have never gone out of what we would call fire season,” Porter said this week. “We have closed [the 2013 season] on Dec. 31, 2013, and we opened the 2014 fire season on Jan. 1, 2014.”
    The intensity and timing of the blazes, which mainly erupted over two days, caught many in the San Diego area off guard. While officials praised many residents' efforts to prepare and protect their homes, pruning and other chores aimed at curbing fire risks were still on many other residents' to-do lists so early in the season.

    “Who’d have thought this May?” resident Jim Buchanan said as flames threatened his home. “Doesn’t fire know the rules?”
     
    With no signs that prime wildfire conditions will let up, Porter said Cal Fire will remain ready for battle. 

    “We have not left our fire stations,” Porter said. “Didn't close any of them in Southern California... We cannot fight these fires alone.”

    State officials have pledged to do what they can to to lessen the drought's blow. In April, Brown issued a second executive order to help deal with the state’s drought, in an effort to help prevent wildfires and assist cities and farmers. The order came a month after he signed $687.4 million worth of legislation to assist drought-affected communities and provide funding to better use local water supplies.
     
    Brown said the order “cuts red tape to help get water to farmers more quickly, ensure communities have safe drinking water, protect vulnerable species and prepare for an extreme fire season.''
     
    Still, local officials say residents should be prepared to weather more fires in the near future, as the high season for the blazes heats up.

     



    Photo Credit: NOAA

    The drought in California as seen from space. The lack of snow at Lake Tahoe and in the Sierras is pronounced.The drought in California as seen from space. The lack of snow at Lake Tahoe and in the Sierras is pronounced.

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    Insulin pens ordered for patients hospitalized at Griffin Hospital, in Derby, might have been misused, exposing patients to possible disease transmission, according to a statement from the hospital.

    A letter from the hospital said pens used between Sept. 1, 2008 and May 7, 2014 might have been used by more than one patient.

    "(W)e discovered that in a small number of cases, multi-dose insulin pen cartridges intended for single patient use may have been used for more than one patient," a letter the hospital sent to patients says. "Upon learning this, we stopped using this type of insulin pen to avoid any further potential for improper use."

    Pens have been ordered for at least 3,149 patients since Sept. 1, 2008 and at least five nurses said they used a pen on multiple patients.

    "It shouldn't have happened, but it did," Patrick Charmel, president and CEO of Griffin Hospital, said.

    Hospital officials haven't identified specific patients who received injections from another patient's insulin pen.They said there is also no evidence that needles were shared.

    A news release from the hospital said needles were not reused, but the pen's insulin cartridge could be contaminated with the "backflow" of blood or skin cells from another patient.

    Patients identified for possible risk should be tested within the next 30 days for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV as a precaution, the hospital letter says.

    Griffin Hospital is offering free and confidential testing for patients.

    Special phone lines have also been set up and will be staffed from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. You can call 203-732-1411 and 203-732-1340.
     



    Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images

    A medical assistant holds an insulin pen administered to diabetes patients at a private clinic in New Delhi on November 8, 2011.  India is facing a twin epidemic of diabetes and high blood pressure, doctors have warned, after the results of a countrywide study suggested that one in five people had both conditions. AFP PHOTO/ SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)A medical assistant holds an insulin pen administered to diabetes patients at a private clinic in New Delhi on November 8, 2011. India is facing a twin epidemic of diabetes and high blood pressure, doctors have warned, after the results of a countrywide study suggested that one in five people had both conditions. AFP PHOTO/ SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

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    A New Haven police officer is being called a hero for actions he took to avoid an accident with another car on Friday.

    It happened just before 5:30 p.m. on James Street near Chapel Street.

    According to police, Officer Mike Fumiatti was responding to a call when he veered to avoid a car in front of him and crashed into a tree just before 5:30 p.m. on James Street.

    Fumiatti was responding to call to help another officer when the accident happened.  He had his lights and sirens on, according to Officer David Hartman, the spokesperson for New Haven Police.

    Hartman said drivers pulled to the right to allow Fumiatti's police cruiser to pass, but one driver pulled to the left, forcing Officer Fumiatti to swerve into the tree.  His actions may have saved the life of the woman driving the other car, Hartman said.

    Fumiatti was conscious and alert at the scene, but was taken to the hospital to be evaluated for non-life threatening injuries, Hartman said.

    The woman was cited for failing to yield to an emergency vehicle.

    Officer Mike Fumiatti is the nephew of the late Officer Robert Fumiatti, a New Haven police officer who was shot in the line of duty in 2002.  He died from complications of the gunshot injuries five years later.



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

    A New Haven police officer was injured in a crash while responding to a call on Friday evening.A New Haven police officer was injured in a crash while responding to a call on Friday evening.

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  • 05/17/14--16:19: Cocos Fire Now 70% Contained

  • The stubborn Cocos Fire that burned more than two dozen structures in a days-long rampage through San Marcos and western Escondido appeared to pose less of a threat Saturday morning.

    As of 9:30 a.m., Cal Fire officials said the Cocos Fire was 70 percent contained, with full containment expected by Sunday. At this point, officials say the fire activity is "limited to smoldering areas within the perimeter."

    Though some evacuated residents have been allowed to return home, other evacuation orders remain in place. This includes Questhaven south of Elfin Forest through Harmony Grove and the area east of Twin Oaks Valley Road along Barham Drive and south into the Coronado Hills community.

    Also still closed as of Saturday morning are the communities of Hidden Hills and Live Oak. Country Club Road from Hill Valley to Harmony Grove Road and Kauana Loa to Harmony Grove. Harmony Grove will remain closed at Country Club Drive.

    Officials said the shelter at Mission Hills High School at 1 Mission Hills Court in San Marcos remains open to serve evacuees.

    On Friday, the situation was much different, as officials worried about the blaze's push to the south.

    What sparked Wednesday as a small brush fire on a hillside behind Cal State in San Marcos exploded into a 2,520-acre wildfire that reduced homes to rubble and forced thousands of people to evacuate, fed by strong winds and dangerously low humidity.

    San Diego county assessment teams were combing the area Friday, trying to pull together official numbers -- a task complicated by live power lines on the ground, as fire crews have warned the media. By late Thursday, the county confirmed that at least 11 single-family homes and 25 structures at the Harmony Grove Spiritualist Association were destroyed. 

    NBC 7 crews had counted at least two dozen buildings burned. Among those were four or five residential homes and more than a dozen buildings burned in the Harmony Grove area, with an additional four homes in Eden Valley and an additional four homes burned in the San Marcos area.

    Four homes on Country Club Drive suffered significant damage, as did one on Washingtonia near Jason Lane, one on Phoenix Way, one on Camino de La Cima, one on Coronado Hills and another one at Coronado Hills Drive and Seaforever Drive.

    Harmony Grove Spiritualist, a century-old church retreat nestled in the hills a few miles west of Escondido, on the eastern side of the Cocos Fire, also suffered a devastating loss, with about half of its 30 structures destroyed. Fire crews were working mop-up in and around the retreat.

    Those structures included a handful of homes, some bungalows, offices and utility buildings. The retreat's Temple of Healing was unscathed, and some two dozen koi survived in a pond on the retreat's 13-acre grounds, located about a 10-minute walk from the nearest road.

    Several ranch homes outside the camp's perimeter along South Country Club Drive are also total losses, the members of the association told NBC 7.

    “[The fire] took probably two minutes to make it through here and do all this devastation. Two minutes,” Captain Nona Barker with the Elfin Forest-Harmony Grove Fire Departmentsaid.

    Map of Wildfire Activity and Open Shelters

    Fire crews fought to save homes in the Coronado Hills and Harmony Grove communities but reported at least three homes destroyed.

    Capt. Greg Lloyd of San Diego Fire-Rescue said crews did everything they could to salvage a hillside home on Phoenix Way. The two-story house was torched Thursday evening when flames jumped a fire retardant line.

    Lloyd said crews pulled burning debris out of the home in an attempt to control the damage, but in the end, they were heartbroken to watch the home and its contents burn to the ground. 

    Evacuees returning home in San Marcos Saturday detailed some of what they faced as flames came dangeroulsy close to their communities.

    “My wife came in that night when the fire was already here,” said one resident, who was fighting back tears. “My neighbor sent a picture and the fire was already to the door and she still went it. I’m glad. Ultimately, it probably would have been ok, but for her to risk her life to do it…”

    San Diego police say they arrested someone trying to loot an evacuated home west of Escondido on Thursday night and prevented it from being looted.

    Officers spotted a car pulling up to the home and determined after questioning that the driver should not be in the area. They did a background check and say the man was wanted on a warrant.

    Soon after it sparked Wednesday the Cocos Fire forced the evacuation of Cal State San Marcos campus and dorms, canceled classes at nearby schools and forced Palomar Hospital to shelter in place, cancel elective surgeries and divert incoming patients.

    The blaze flared up Thursday and scorched its way through a canyon south of La Moree Road, after prompting evacuations Wednesday from San Marcos south of State Route 78 to western Escondido just west of Interstate 15.

    Military helicopters hauled in water drops from Lake San Marcos one after another, in a coordinated effort that drew impressed onlookers.

    The DC-10 Super Tanker that had arrived Wednesday to the delight of residents, local officials and firefighters was requested Thursday but down due to pilot availability, Cal Fire said.

    Click here for Latest Evacuation Map

    On Friday, officials lifted evacuations for some residents:

    In San Marcos, those living south of SR-78, west of Twin Oaks Valley Road through the San Elijo Community to San Elijo at S. Rancho Santa Fe may return to their homes. The best route will be Rancho Santa Fe Road.

    In Escondido, those living west of Valley Parkway, including the community south of Citracado and west of Del Dios Highway, as well as areas north of Via Rancho and west of Felicita Road may return home.

    Those closures still in effect include Questhaven south of Elfin Forest through Harmony Grove and the area east of Twin Oaks Valley Road along Barham Drive and south into the Coronado Hills community and the communities of Hidden Hills and Live Oak. Country Club Road from Hill Valley to Harmony Grove Road and Kauana Loa to Harmony Grove.

    Harmony Grove will remain closed at County Club Drive.

    For those with damaged or destroyed homes, San Diego County will open a Recovery Liaison Office daily 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting Saturday, May 17.

    Among the things they can help with clearing away debris, cleaning swimming pools and other recovery and rebuilding information..



    Photo Credit: Artie Ojeda

    A home at 664 Coronado Hills Dr.  in San Marcos was damaged by fire in this image of Cocos Fire damage on Friday, May 16, 2014.A home at 664 Coronado Hills Dr. in San Marcos was damaged by fire in this image of Cocos Fire damage on Friday, May 16, 2014.

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    Several families have been displaced by a second-alarm fire that broke out at a multi-family home on Cottage Street in Manchester.

    Flames broke out at 39 Cottage Street around 6:20 p.m. Friday, according to Manchester Fire Chief Robert Bycholski. It’s not clear where the fire started or why, but Bycholski said it burned on all three stories.

    “We have pretty severe damage on the second floor and less damage on the first and third,” explained Bycholski. The fire was under control within 30 minutes of firefighters’ arrival on scene.

    Four people were inside the home when the fire broke out, according to Bycholski. Two were able to get out on their own, and police helped rescue the other two. Bycholski said none of the people inside the home were children.

    It’s not clear how many people live in the building, but Bycholski said there are five apartments in the house. Heavy fire damage has forced them from their homes and will likely keep them out for an extended period of time.

    Residents were able to make other housing arrangements without the help of the Red Cross, Bycholski said.

    Firefighters had to cut a ventilation hole in the roof so smoke could be released before they could extinguish the flames from the third-story attic.

    Crews from the East Hartford, Bolton, Vernon, Glastonbury and South Windsor fire departments provided mutual aid.

    Bycholski said power to the street was turned off as a precaution to keep flames from jumping to the wires.

    An investigation conducted by the local fire marshal was inconclusive, Bycholski said, and authorities are still working to figure out what started the fire.


    View Larger Map



    Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

    Crews respond to a fire at 39 Cottage Street in Manchester.Crews respond to a fire at 39 Cottage Street in Manchester.

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    South Main Street has reopened in Torrington after a pedestrian was struck by a car Friday evening, according to police.

    It happened around 9 p.m. Friday in the area of 207 South Main Street. Police and fire officials responded to the scene and closed the road near East Albert Street.

    There has been no word on injuries.


    View Larger Map


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