BELLVUE, Colo.

Hundreds of firefighters battle blaze in two states

Massive wildfires in drought-parched Colorado and New Mexico tested the resources of state and federal crews Monday and underscored the need to replenish an aging U.S. aerial firefighting fleet needed to combat a year-round fire season.

Wyoming diverted personnel and aircraft from two fires there to help with a 60-square-mile wildfire in northern Colorado.

Canada also loaned two aerial bombers to fight the Colorado blaze following the recent crash of a U.S. tanker in Utah. And an elite federal firefighting crew arrived to try to begin containing a fire that destroyed at least 118 structures.

All told, about 600 firefighters will be battling the fire some 15 miles west of Fort Collins by today, said incident commander Bill Hahnenberg. “We are a very high priority nationally. We can get all the resources we want and need,” he said.

The U.S. Forest Service said late Monday it would add more aircraft to its aerial firefighting fleet, contracting one air tanker from the state of Alaska and four from Canada. Two more air tankers were being activated in California.

The announcement came after Colorado’s U.S. House congressional delegation demanded that the agency deploy more resources to the fire, which was zero percent contained and forced hundreds of people to abandon their homes. The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office said it confirmed one person died in the fire – but did not say whether the victim was a person previously reported missing.

SANDY HOOK, N.J.

Report of yacht explosion could turn out to be hoax

The Coast Guard says a report of an explosion on a motor yacht off central New Jersey could be a hoax because it can’t find any signs of distress in the water.

Authorities received an emergency radio transmission from a boat identifying itself as the Blind Date on Monday afternoon.

Coast Guard Lt. Joe Klinker said the caller reported the boat was 17 nautical miles east of Sandy Hook and had 21 people aboard and several people were injured. He said the caller said the vessel had sunk but everyone aboard had made it to life rafts.

Klinker said it’s “highly unusual” for the Coast Guard to get this kind of position and get there quickly but not locate anything or see any sign of distress. He said it’s unclear if a yacht called the Blind Date exists.

SAN GABRIEL, Calif.

Commerce secretary’s crash attributed to having seizure

A succession of small fender benders over the weekend raised questions about whether U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson has a medical or legal problem – or both.

Bryson hit a car stopped for a train Saturday afternoon – twice – then rammed into another vehicle a few minutes later. He was found unconscious in his car, and government officials said Monday he had a seizure, which could play a role in whether he’s charged with felony hit-and-run.

Bryson, 68, hasn’t suffered a seizure before, said a department official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the secretary’s medical history.

The crashes drew attention because of health concerns involving a member of the U.S. Cabinet, as well as the challenge investigators face when trying to determine if someone should be held criminally responsible because of adverse health.

Bryson took a Breathalyzer test that didn’t detect any alcohol, but investigators were awaiting the results from a blood test, said Los Angeles County sheriff’s Capt. Mike Parker.

Commerce officials said he was given medication to treat the seizure.

BILLINGS, Mont.

Author of kindness memoir hurt in drive-by shooting

A West Virginia man who told authorities he was hitchhiking across the country and writing a memoir about kindness was wounded in a seemingly random drive-by shooting near Montana’s booming Bakken oil patch.

Ray Dolin, 39, was shot in the arm as he approached a pickup Saturday evening, thinking the driver was offering him a ride, said Valley County Sheriff Glen Meier.

A 52-year-old man from Washington state, Lloyd Christopher Danielson III, was arrested about four hours later near Culbertson. Authorities said Danielson was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They released no motive in the shooting.

Danielson was apparently headed to Williston, N.D., for work tied to the oil boom, although Meier said he has offered few details.

The shooting follows another random attack in which a popular 43-year-old teacher from the oil patch town of Sidney, Mont., was allegedly kidnapped and killed by two Colorado men on their way to the Bakken earlier this year.

As the men await trial in the murder of teacher Sherry Arnold, the case has stoked worries that a once-quiet corner of Montana has been irreversibly altered by the oil boom. Crime rates across western North Dakota and eastern Montana have spiked as thousands of workers flock to a region that has become one of the top oil-producing areas of the country.

– From news service reports