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REGION BRIEFS: Neighbor uses garden hose to put out fire

A Spotsylvania County house fire was “pretty much” extinguished by the time firefighters arrived at the scene Monday, thanks to a neighbor with a garden hose, Fire Chief Monty Willaford said.

The small fire in the 11700 block of Arthur Lane, off State Route 3, was caused by cigarette butts that had been left in a plastic container on a back deck, he said. No injuries were reported.

Willaford said the blaze caused about $10,000 to $15,000 in damage but never reached the inside of the dwelling “due to the quick action of a neighbor,” who used a garden hose to put out the fire around noon.

Most of the damage was to the home’s siding near the back deck.

Willaford reminded residents not to discard cigarettes until they are fully extinguished.

—Jeff Branscome

Stafford Fire getting new equipment

More than $12,000 of public safety equipment is coming to Stafford County’s Fire and Rescue Department.

The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has awarded the department tools that are used to extract victims of car accidents from damaged vehicles.

Assistant Chief Mark Doyle said that the new tools will help with replacing an older set of equipment that does not work as well on the new alloy used in vehicles today.

“The Firehouse Subs grant is a great thing for our community,” Doyle said.

Stafford Fire and Rescue was one of four public safety organizations in the Washington area that received equipment from the public safety foundation. Two are in Virginia—Loudoun and Warrenton.

The foundation was created in 2005 to support first responders and public safety equipment.

Firehouse Subs, which was founded by two former firefighters, has given more than $453,300 in Virginia through the nonprofit foundation.

To celebrate the donation, Stafford Fire and Rescue will hold a dedication event on Wednesday at 3 p.m. at the Firehouse Subs restaurant located at 1465 Stafford Market Place.

—Vanessa Remmers

Ex-Girl Scouts CEO pleads guilty to embezzling

HANOVER—A former Girl Scouts executive in Virginia has pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $23,000 from the organization.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that 62-year-old Linda Pasternak Carne of Goochland County faces up to 20 years in prison when she is sentenced in Hanover County Circuit Court on July 7.

Carne served as CEO of the Girl Scouts of the Commonwealth of Virginia from April 2010 to December 2011. In court Friday, special prosecutor Matthew Ackley outlined several instances in which Carne used a Girl Scout-issued credit card to pay for stays in posh hotels, baseball game tickets, spa services and rental of a North Carolina beach house.

Md. spent $90M on health exchange tech

ANNAPOLIS, Md.—A breakdown of spending on Maryland’s troubled health exchange shows that more than $90 million of the nearly $130 million cost so far has gone toward technology expenses.

Officials, including Gov. Martin O’Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who was in charge of implementing the reform, have said the website is a small part of the exchange. But The Washington Post reports that a breakdown provided by Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the state’s health secretary, shows the state spent $129.8 million to build and run its exchange, and technology was the biggest expense, $91.7 million.

Most of that money, $72.1 million, went to Noridian Healthcare Solutions, including $49.9 million spent developing the exchange.

Officials say the exchange is so flawed that it would be cheaper to replace than fix.

Ex-U.Va. dean guilty of child porn charges

CHARLOTTESVILLE—A former University of Virginia associate dean has pleaded guilty to child pornography charges.

Michael G. Morris pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of distributing or receiving child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography.

U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy says Morris possessed more than 1,000 images of child pornography and child erotica. Morris made many of these images available on a file-sharing website.

At the time of his arrest in November 2013, Morris was an associate dean at U.Va.’s McIntyre School of Commerce.

Deputies hurt while pursuing man

STERLING—The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office says two deputies were injured as they pursued a man who tried to steal televisions from a Sterling Costco.

Authorities say deputies spotted the man fleeing the store on Saturday afternoon. The sheriff’s office says the man slammed one deputy’s hand in the door of his car and when another deputy tried to grab the man through the window, he dragged the deputy for about 60 feet.

The sheriff’s office says the man also hit a patrol car with the Acura with New York license plates before getting away. Authorities say both deputies were treated and released from a local hospital.

Racist Easter eggs upset residents

HENRICO—Residents of a Henrico neighborhood are upset after finding Easter eggs containing racist notes on their lawns.

Media outlets report that residents found the plastic eggs Sunday morning. The eggs contained typed paper notes that compared diversity to “white genocide,” and listed links to two websites.

Jim McCarty says he was stunned to find the messages on Easter.

Brandon Smith says he’s disturbed that his young son could have found one of the eggs.

Henrico police are investigating the incident.

Maryland won’t automatically hold immigrants for feds

BALTIMORE—Maryland’s governor says a state jail in Baltimore will no longer automatically comply with federal requests to hold immigrants past their release date for possible deportation.

Gov. Martin O’Malley says the Baltimore City Detention Center will now consider the severity of the charges a person is facing when reviewing U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement requests to hold immigrants through the “Secure Communities” program. O’Malley notified Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson of the change in a letter released last week.

The Democrat preparing for a possible 2016 presidential bid says the new policy will focus on complying with detainers “when there is an actual threat to the public’s safety.”

Officer pleads guilty to child porn charges

GREENBELT, Md.—A U.S. Air Force officer has pleaded guilty to child pornography charges.

Forty-four-year-old William Gazafi of Lusby is a non-commissioned officer at Andrews Air Force Base. He pleaded guilty to six counts of sexually exploiting a minor to produce child pornography Monday in federal court in Greenbelt.

According to his plea agreement, Gazafi chatted online with an undercover officer on a website dedicated to incest and revealed a sexual interest in children. Prosecutors say Gazafi possessed sexually explicit images and videos of children.

Danville muffler shop gets robot dog back

DANVILLE—Muffles the robot dog has come home.

Someone stole Muffles from outside the Scarce Muffler Shop in Danville about two weeks ago, along with a park bench.

The shop’s owner and Muffles’ creator, Roger Crews, told the Danville Register & Bee that Muffles and the bench reappeared outside the shop on Friday night.

Crews said neither was damaged.

Woman mixed cleaners, died

BERLIN, Md.—The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office says a 75-year-old woman died after cleaning her home in Berlin.

Officials say the woman was cleaning her bathroom at her home at the Lake Haven Trailer Park on Sunday, when she mixed a cleaning product that may have had ammonia in it with bleach, a combination which can create toxic vapors.

Fisherman drowns after canoe flips

SOUTH BOSTON—Authorities say a Halifax County fisherman drowned over the weekend when a canoe flipped over in a pond.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries tells media outlets that Christopher Tucker and another person were fishing in the pond at Berry Hill Resort and Conference Center when the canoe flipped. The other person swam to shore.

The accident occurred Saturday at the resort in South Boston. Tucker’s body was recovered Sunday morning.

Eastern Mennonite renovating center

HARRISONBURG—A $7 million renovation of Eastern Mennonite University’s science center is underway.

The city of Harrisonburg granted a $4.6 million construction permit for the project to the university last week.

The 46-year-old Suter Science Center’s East Wing is being expanded and upgraded. The project also includes new equipment.

The renovation is being done in phases while the science center remains open. The project is scheduled to be completed by August 2015.

Eastern Mennonite vice president of finance Daryl Bert tells The Daily News–Record that the first phase involves demolishing a classroom on the building’s south side and replacing it with a slightly larger room.

That project is expected to be completed by the start of the fall semester.

Boat ramp near Sharpsburg, Md., closing for days

SHARPSBURG, Md.—The National Park Service says it’s cutting off vehicle access to a Potomac River boat ramp near Sharpsburg for more than a week to replace a bridge over the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.

The agency says the road leading to the Big Slackwater boat ramp in the C&O Canal National Historical Park will be closed Monday. It will reopen on or about May 2.

The ramp provides boating access to a wide section of the river behind Dam No. 4. It is a popular access point for anglers and speedboats, with 55 parking spaces, including parking for trailers.

Chesapeake Bay grasses rebound after 3-year slide

RICHMOND—Scientists say an indicator of the Chesapeake Bay’s health—underwater grasses—has reversed a three-year downward trend.

The Chesapeake Bay Program released its annual report on underwater grasses on Monday. The program says the abundance of underwater grasses increased 24 percent between 2012 and 2013.

Underwater grasses are considered critical to the bay ecosystem because they offer food to small invertebrates and migratory birds and shelter for young fish and blue crabs.

The increase in aquatic vegetation reflects the rapid expansion of a type called widgeongrass in saltier waters of the mid-bay. Eelgrass also saw a modest recovery.

The Chesapeake Bay Program is the regional partnership leading the restoration of the bay. Its partner states include Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. Washington, D.C., is also a partner.

—The Associated Press