Wildfires triple in size, fueled by strong winds

Wildfires in northwestern Nebraska tripled in size in less than 24 hours, as strong winds pushed flames through the rugged terrain.

More than 285 square miles – an area more than twice the size of the state’s largest city, Omaha – had burned by Sunday afternoon, fire officials said. One of the fires had crossed into South Dakota this weekend and burned more than 50 square miles, including land on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

A day earlier, the fires had only burned roughly 93 square miles in the ranching territory.

“We’ve got a very challenging situation out here because of the winds and the very dry conditions,” Gov. Dave Heineman said Sunday after touring the damage.

Overall, the fires have damaged at least 10 homes and more than 50 structures in Nebraska and South Dakota. The fires also forced the evacuation of several small towns.


Union, U.S. Steel announce tentative three-year pact 

U.S. Steel and the United Steelworkers announced a tentative agreement Sunday on a three-year contract covering more than 16,000 workers at domestic facilities.

Contract details were not announced. The union said members will vote after reviewing details over the next few weeks. The two sides had been negotiating since June on a contract to replace the existing pact, which expired Saturday.

The union said health care for retirees and the rising cost of that coverage were among the most significant issues in this year’s talks.


Rescuers hope to save five whales after mass beaching

Veterinarians fed fish drinks to five rescued pilot whales Sunday and kept an eye on them, trying to nurse the mammals back to health so they can one day return to the ocean.

The two calves and three juveniles were among 22 whales beached in South Florida on Saturday. The rest either died of natural causes or had to be euthanized.

The whales were brought to Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Institute for rehabilitation. Experts said the animals were worn out, but mostly doing well.

“They’ve all been through a pretty stressful ordeal,” said Dr. Michelle Davis, senior veterinarian for SeaWorld Orlando.

Several organizations were working to care for the whales. About 10 people monitored them around the clock; one person was assigned to each whale to watch it constantly.

SANAA, Yemen

U.S. drone kills top al-Qaida militant, Yemen officials say

A U.S. drone strike Sunday killed a top al-Qaida militant wanted for allegedly masterminding a 2002 attack on a French oil tanker, Yemeni military officials said.

The Defense Ministry said in a statement that Khaled Batis, wanted in connection with the attack on the Limburg off the coast of Yemen that killed one person, was among five militants riding a vehicle struck by a drone Friday in the southern city of Hadramawt.

Military officials said the drone was American.

The U.S. frequently targets militants in Yemen with drone strikes and also advises the country’s ground forces, though it rarely acknowledges its role.