Residents of northern New Mexico got a reprieve Sunday from a wildfire that has burned more than 120,000 acres when authorities announced that evacuees could return home.
The move came after relatively favorable weather conditions - including fairly high humidity and weak winds - in recent days, said Brad Pitassi, an Incident Management Team spokesman for the Southwest.
He stressed that the fire remains "very active," noting it was only 11% contained by Sunday afternoon.
The stars at night are still big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas, but you might have to search a bit to spot skyrockets among them this Fourth of July weekend.
Many cities and towns have canceled their Independence Day fireworks shows as the state endures a devastating drought. Authorities have prohibited open burning in 236 (or 93%) of the state's 254 counties.
"There's always risk involved, even though it may be minimal risk," said Alan B. Benson, fire chief in The Woodlands Township, located in the Piney Woods about 30 miles north of Houston. "But in this case, we really can't afford a mishap and take a chance on our forest. We're kind of a green community, so we really value that resource."
He decided Monday to cancel the suburb's show for the first time since 1975.
"The level of risk this year is simply not acceptable," Benson said. "We had about three days with approximately 30% chance of rain. Well, it didn't rain, and it's not going to. We believe it was a good decision."
Austin also canceled its display for the first time in 35 years. San Marcos decided to cancel its display Monday, leaving Kyle as the only central Texas city going ahead with fireworks, CNN affiliate KVUE reported.
Many communities have gone even further and banned private fireworks as part of their burn bans. In The Woodlands, violating the ban could mean a $1,000 fine or up to 180 days in jail.
Fireworks seller Chester Davis told the American-Statesman newspaper in Austin that he stands to lose 30% of his business.
He said flashes and explosions are an essential part of celebrating our independence.
"It's what I believe America is all about," he told the Statesman. "It's apple pie, it's Chevrolet, and it's Fourth of July fireworks."
In the past seven days, the Texas Forest Service reports it has responded to 49 fires covering 19,216 acres.
Since fire season started on November 15, the Texas Forest Service and area fire departments have responded to 12,985 fires that have burned 3,268,011 acres, the agency reported.
Benson is holding out hope that significant rain will arrive in The Woodlands soon.
"We are contemplating having a blowout at the end of summer," he said. "Do it on Labor Day."
Kabul hotel attack – Eight suicide attackers and 10 others were killed in an attack at a Kabul hotel popular with Westerners, journalists and politicians. President Hamid Karzai said Thursday that the attack at the Inter-Continental won't interrupt the power handover from international troops to Afghan forces. Police say the number of dead may go up as they continue to search the hotel. One guest, a student, began to write his will inside his room while he heard shooting and explosions outside his room, because people he contacted outside the hotel told him it was safer if he stayed put. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the carnage. Stay with CNN.com for developments in this story, and check out CNN.com's Afghanistan Crossroads blog which focuses on life in Afghanistan.
Wildfire near nuclear lab – The wildfire near Santa Fe, New Mexico, is within miles of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, so the facility will remain closed at least through Thursday. Officials say the nuclear and hazardous materials at the lab are safe.
First presser since March at White House – President Barack Obama will hold his first news conference since March on Wednesday. He's expected to field questions about Afghanistan, American involvement in Libya, and the United States economy. He's also expected to address the debt ceiling crisis and present his position that the federal government should be allowed to borrow more money.
Teen drug use big problem – A new study from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse finds 90% of people who become addicted started smoking, drinking or using other drugs before the age of 18. Columbia University, which published the study, is calling it America's top health problem.
Bulger goes to court – A hearing for reputed mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger is expected Tuesday afternoon in Boston. A federal judge will decide if Bulger can afford to pay for his own attorney. The U.S. attorney's office in Boston is challenging the notion that the federal government can pick up his legal tab. Investigators say they found more than $800,000 in cash hidden in the walls of his home when they arrested Bulger last week in Southern California.
New Mexico wildfire – A blaze is creeping close to the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, which will remained closed Tuesday. Thousands of people who live nearby are being evacuated. Officials said all nuclear and hazardous materials at Los Alamos are protected. The lab in Los Alamos, a center of American nuclear science, is one of the nation's top national-security research facilities.
A raging wildfire near the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico has prompted the evacuation of more than 10,000 residents as firefighters battle hot temperatures and high winds, authorities said Monday.
Los Alamos, a center of American nuclear science, is one of the nation's top national-security research facilities.
The fire near the lab has raised concerns about whether hazardous materials kept there are being adequately guarded. Authorities say they are.
North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue declared a state of emergency Saturday for 29 counties as crews battled wildfires that have consumed more than 70,000 acres.
“I want to assure residents of North Carolina that the state Division of Forest Resources and its partnering agencies are working hard to contain the fires in Eastern North Carolina,” Perdue said in a statement on her website.
The emergency order means North Carolina can receive aid from federal authorities as well as other states.
Lindsay Lohan ordered back to court – Lindsay Lohan allegedly failed a court-ordered alcohol test last week and will have to go before a judge for a probation violation hearing Thursday morning, according to a source close to the case. Lohan's failed test comes while the actress is confined to her Venice Beach, California, home after pleading guilty to stealing a necklace. The actress will appear before Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Sautner, the same judge who sentenced her, a prosecution spokeswoman said.
Fugitive captured – Accused Boston crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger is expected to be arraigned Thursday in Los Angeles. Bulger was arrested Wednesday by the FBI Fugitive Task Force in Santa Monica, California, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller. Bulger had been on the run since the mid-'90s after fleeing Boston as he was about to be arrested in connection with 19 killings, racketeering and other crimes. Bulger, 81, has been the subject of several books and was said to be the inspiration for the 2006 movie "The Departed."
Afghan troop withdrawal – President Barack Obama will deliver a highly anticipated speech on the U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday. He is expected to announce that 30,000 U.S. "surge" forces will be fully withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, an administration official said. Obama has been mulling how many troops should be withdrawn this summer and by the end of the year. The president is expected to stress the importance of preserving flexibility in force levels on the ground so commanders can adjust as conditions warrant, the official said.
As some eastern Arizona residents began heading home Saturday after a massive wildfire, the attention turned to another blaze on the Mexican border that has burned more than 20,000 acres.
Gordon Van Vleet, a spokesman for the Joint Information Center, said that no cause has been determined for the so-called Monument fire, which has spread across the Huachuca Mountains.
"The cause of the fire is still under investigation," said Van Vleet, adding that authorities likely won't state a cause until the blaze is more under control.
But in a press conference, Sen. John McCain blamed illegal immigrants for starting unspecified fires in that area.
Thousands of residents of Slave Lake, Alberta, were awaiting word Tuesday on when they could return to the town they fled two days earlier when wind-whipped wildfires tore through it, destroying hundreds of buildings.
At least 7,000 left the town, 155 miles northwest of Edmonton, when flames picked up Sunday afternoon, according to news reports.
No injuries have been reported. But more than a third of the town's residences had burned as well as the town hall, library and other government buildings, according to reports. Schools and the hospital survived, but essential services were damaged or knocked out. The provincial government said water in Slave Lake was not suitable for drinking or bathing until further notice.
An out-of-control wildfire has burned at least half of a Canadian town of 9,800, forcing its residents to flee in a slow-moving convoy on the only highway out of town.
Hundreds of buildings in the northern Alberta town of Slave Lake have been destroyed, including the town hall and police station, CNN affiliate CTV reported. No injuries have been reported.
“It’s extremely devastating, our loss. It’s difficult to articulate,” Slave Lake Mayor Karina Pillay-Kinnee told the Globe and Mail late Sunday.
The wildfire started east of the town, then split into two and encircled the town, Rob Harris, a fire information officer with Sustainable Resource Development, told the Edmonton Journal.
Violence in Syria and Libya – The Syrian army launched a military operation Monday cracking down on anti-government protesters in the southern city of Daraa, and Syrian authorities have closed the border with Jordan.
Witnesses early Monday reported bodies lying on the streets of Daraa. Ambulances were unable to help the injured because snipers and army officers were deployed across the city, a witness said. "They shoot on anything that moves," the witness said. Another witness spoke to CNN by phone, estimating about 3,000 soldiers are in Daraa. "They are breaking into people's houses, firing randomly at houses," said the resident as the sound of gunfire and people screaming could be heard in the background. "We were sleeping and not protesting."
Meanwhile in Libya, the casualty toll continued to mount Monday in Misrata despite reports that Moammar Gadhafi's forces have withdrawn from the besieged city. Misrata has been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting as rebels try to oust Gadhafi. NATO jets bombed targets in the capital of Tripoli early Monday as state-run TV reported airstrikes flattened a building at Gadhafi's compound. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said NATO should start bombing Gadhafi's inner circle to remove him from power.
A fire ignited by lava from the Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii's Big Island is threatening what a National Park Service spokesman calls "a living laboratory of Hawaiian plants and animals," the Star-Advertiser in Honolulu reports.
The fire, which began on March 5, has burned 100 acres of a 2,750-acre special ecological area in a lowland rain forest, according to the Park Service.
Among the creatures in the area are happy face spiders, carnivorous caterpillars and the endangered Hawaiian bat, the newspaper said, citing Park Service fire information spokesman Gary Wuchner.
"It best represents what Hawaii was, and is a seed source for plants and refuge for birds," Hawaii Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman Mardi Lane told the Star-Advertiser.
Forty Park Service firefighters from Hawaii and western mainland states are battling the fire, according to the report.
Massive fire in Toronto – A 6-alarm fire in Toronto lit up the sky and put the lives of hundreds of firefighters at risk as 32 trucks battled the blaze in a 100-year-old building.
[Updated at 11:27 a.m. ET] Two firefighters were killed and 14 others were injured after a building that was on fire collapsed, a Chicago Fire Department spokesman told CNN.
The two firefighters died from injuries they suffered while fighting the blaze.
Four firefighters remain in serious condition, spokesman Larry Langford said.
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[Updated at 10:22 a.m. ET] All firefighters are accounted for after a roof collapse at a fire on East 75th near Stony Island on Chicago's southside this morning, Larry Langford with Chicago Fire told CNN.
Several firefighters were trapped in the collapse. A dozen firefighters have been transported to local hospitals with injuries ranging from minor to serious. There are no confirmed fatalities at this point.
[Updated at 9:29 a.m. ET] Firefighters are using everything at their disposal to try to reach two colleagues that remain trapped under the rubble of a collapsed building in Chicago.
Video from the scene shows firefighters literally pulling brick-by-brick from the ground, filling white buckets with debris, lifting material on metal structures and trying to sift through as much material as they can while the snow continues to fall in Chicago.
[Updated at 9:10 a.m. ET] Dozens of firefighters are at the scene of a vacant building collapse searching through the lot's now-completely demolished structure for two of their colleagues who remain trapped inside.
A fire killed six people in Baltimore, Maryland, Tuesday morning, authorities said.
The blaze at a two-story home in East Baltimore was reported just before 5 a.m., said Kevin Cartwright, a Baltimore Fire Department spokesman.
Firefighters entered the home but had to evacuate because of the fast-moving fire. After extinguishing the blaze, firefighters entered the home again and found five bodies. A sixth victim was found later, Cartwright said. Some of the victims were children, he said, but did not give a number. The relationship between the victims was unknown.
The "major sources" of a deadly Israeli wildfire have been extinguished, police said Sunday, as the Israeli cabinet approved a plan to speed aid to those affected.
The cabinet's vote, at a special meeting near the area affected by the fire, came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged haste.
"I do not want delays," Netanyahu said. "I do not want bureaucracy. I want processes to be shortened. I want quick solutions. I want all of the people - within days - to be able to return to their homes or to alternative
housing, until the reconstruction work is finished."
The FBI announced a $10,000 reward Sunday for information leading to the arrest of the person or people responsible for an apparent attack on an Oregon Islamic center.
The center was was attended by the man authorities say was behind a foiled bomb plot at a recent Portland Christmas tree lighting.
A fire appears to have started sometime early Sunday morning at the Salman AlFarisi Islamic Center in Corvallis, Oregon, authorities said. The building suffered some fire and smoke damage.
Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who was arrested in connection with the plan to detonate what he thought was an explosives-laden van at a Portland tree-lighting ceremony Friday night, occasionally attended the center, the mosque's imam told CNN.
Two teens were arrested in the Tuesday fire at Hastings Pier.
Britain’s renowned Hastings Pier, a Victorian-era structure once dubbed the “Peerless Pier,” was 90 percent destroyed by fire early Tuesday.
Two local men, ages 18 and 19, were arrested on suspicion of arson after the blaze, according to the Hastings Observer.
The pier, which opened in 1872 as a holiday destination for tourists, was the work of Eugenius Birch, who designed 14 similar piers across Britain. Only seven remained before Tuesday’s fire, according to the Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust.
A fire Monday near a New York railroad bridge has caused the suspension of Metro North commuter train service to and from Grand Central Station, the city's Office of Emergency Management said.
The cause of the fire beneath a bridge crossing the Harlem River was unknown. Video footage of the blaze from CNN affiliate WABC showed thick smoke from visible flames on a wooden pier-like structure beneath the Manhattan side of what is known as the 138th Street lift bridge.
Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said subway service continued to run out of Grand Central Station.
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