STATEWIDE

As wind fans brush fires, helicopters set to respond

Brush fires popped up in a handful of communities around Maine on Saturday as gusty winds helped create ripe conditions for the fires.

Fires were reported in Bucksport, Sanford and Gardiner. All were reported out or under control by sunset.

Spring is brush fire season in Maine, said Doug Denico, the director of the Maine Forest Service. He said his department has helicopters standing by in Augusta to airlift firefighters to parts of the state where fires are occurring if local communities need help.

One helicopter is equipped with a bucket that can scoop up 240 gallons of water to be dropped on a fire, he said.

Denico said fires this time of year normally occur in southern and Down East Maine. On Saturday, the wind helped dry out grassy areas and then fanned any fires that did start, he said.

The statewide fire danger Saturday was at level 3, midway on the state’s five-step warning system. At level 3, fires can start and spread readily in dead fuel.

LEBANON

Police investigating car found partly submerged

Police in Lebanon are trying to sort out what happened following the discovery of a partially submerged car.

Police said the vehicle was discovered early Saturday with its front end submerged and the owner nowhere to be found.

Police said the owner is from another town, according to WGME-TV.

The investigation is continuing.

GORHAM

Sen. Collins set to speak at USM commencement

The University of Southern Maine says U.S. Sen. Susan Collins will be one of the school’s two speakers at next month’s graduation ceremonies.

Collins and Mary G.F. Bitterman, president of the Bernard Osher Foundation, will deliver speeches at USM’s ceremonies on May 11.

USM usually holds its commencement at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland. But the arena is under renovation, forcing the university to instead hold two ceremonies at the Costello Sports Complex on USM’s Gorham campus.

About 1,000 graduates are eligible to take part in the ceremonies, scheduled for 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

LEWISTON

Dempsey attends premiere of documentary on cycling

The premiere of the documentary “The Peloton Project” in Maine’s second-biggest city didn’t lack for star power.

Attending the Lewiston Auburn Film Festival on Friday night were Patrick Dempsey, who’s dubbed “McDreamy” in the TV hospital drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” along with “Survivorman” star and creator Les Strout and photographer Laura Bombier.

The Sun Journal reported that Dempsey, whose mother is a cancer survivor, is executive producer of “The Peloton Project,” which premiered at the Franco-American Heritage Center.

The movie follows the lives of 40 cyclists as they train and raise money for cancer care in preparation for the “Cancervive Peloton Project.” The benefit ride covered more than 2,500 miles from Calgary, Alberta, to Lewiston for the Dempsey Challenge last October.

SOUTH PORTLAND

Former Wright Express, WEX, changing its ticker symbol

One of Maine’s larger publicly traded companies is changing its ticker symbol on the New York Stock Exchange.

South Portland-based WEX Inc. is changing its symbol to “WEX” from “WXS.” The change is effective at the start of trading on April 15.

The company’s main line of business is processing fuel payments for commercial and government fleets. Last fall it changed its name from Wright Express Corp. to WEX.

The company last year reported revenues of $623 million.

MONTPELIER, Vt.

Vermont and Maine collect most mercury thermostats

A new report by a group working to get mercury out of the environment says Vermont and Maine lead the nation in efforts to collect mercury thermostats and keep them out of the waste stream.

The Mercury Policy Project and Vermont Public Interest Research Group joined this week in releasing figures showing that Vermont and Maine are the nation’s leaders because they require manufacturers to pay $5 to contractors and homeowners who return mercury-added thermostats, resulting in higher collection rates.

Collections jumped after Vermont’s bounty went into effect, and the state rose to first in the nation for collection in 2011. Maine is second.

HAMPTON, N.H.

Police arrest man, 70, for firing gun at work site

Police in Hampton say a 70-year-old man used a gun to settle a dispute at a work site.

Officers said James Clark was arrested Friday evening after being accused of brandishing a gun during a scuffle over payment and work to be completed on a property.

Clark is accused of firing his gun in the direction of one of the alleged victims. No one was injured.

Police arrested Clark during a traffic stop, and he was later released on $5,000 bail and ordered to turn over his guns. He couldn’t be reached immediately for comment. The incident remains under investigation.