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February 22-28, 2006

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News Briefs

By Patricia Lynn Henley


Floods 'n' FEMA

Anyone harmed by the New Year's floods should apply for assistance, no matter how minor the damage, says FEMA spokesman Noel Boxer, adding, "We'll work with them to determine what they're eligible for." The feds declared an official disaster in 10 California counties on Feb. 3; to receive help from FEMA, individuals and businesses must register within 60 days of that date. So far, 2,785 people have done so, including 564 in Marin, 469 in Sonoma and 362 in Napa counties. After registering, individuals can check their status and get help either through the 800 number or at disaster recovery centers in San Anselmo, Napa, Guerneville and Santa Rosa. As of Feb. 20, 420 people visited the San Anselmo site; 198 in Napa; 139 in Guerneville; and 36 in Santa Rosa. "If the visits dwindle down to just a few folks a day, then we close the center. It doesn't make sense to have those federal and state resources there if no one is utilizing them," says Boxer. To learn more, go online at www.fema.gov/register.shtm or call 1.800.621.3362.

A Hot Time

The northern Sonoma County city of Healdsburg is sizzling with unease following four fires in three buildings in a five-day period, all within a three-block area. Estimated damages total more than $550,000. It appears the blazes were set by the same arsonist or arsonists. "It's a similar building type and similar start types with ordinary combustibles found on scene or carried on their person, except the last fire was an accelerant," says Sgt. Tony Pinochi of the Healdsburg Police Department. The first flames were reported at 10:05pm on Feb. 15 in a Victorian house converted to law offices at 465 Healdsburg Ave., with damages estimated at $200,000. The fire bug hit again at 7:17pm on Feb. 16, to the tune of $10,000 at 141 North St., another Victorian office conversion. The next blaze was at 1:59pm on Feb. 17, with $50,000 in damages in a historic building at 739 Johnson St. The North Street site was torched again at 5:53am on Feb. 19; damages are approximately $300,000. There has never been this level of arson activity in Healdsburg before, Pinochi says. "The community is fairly anxious and reporting a lot of suspicious activities, but what we're looking for are people in and around buildings who don't belong there and/or lurking around locations even after the fire has occurred." Call 707.431.3377 if you see such; a $2,000 reward has been posted.


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