A look back at the week's top stories.
FIRE BURNS IN CHASSAHOWITZKA: Firefighters weathered shifting winds, bees and calls to other blazes Friday as they beat down a 120-acre wildfire that erupted near the western Hernando-Citrus county line. The fire forced emergency workers to close part of U.S. 19 for more than four hours starting about 12:30 p.m. The blaze also threatened as many as two dozen homes, seven of them seriously, authorities said. None of the homes was damaged and, while residents were placed on alert, they were not asked to evacuate.
THORPE BOWS OUT OF COMMISSION RACE: County Commission chairman Brad Thorpe, a Republican, announced that he will not seek a third term for the District 5 seat covering the northeastern corner of the county. Thorpe, a financial aid counselor at Central Florida Community College, said he wants to devote more time to his career in education.
WTI PROTESTERS SUPPORT KINARD: About two dozen Withlacoochee Technical Institute students took their frustration with Steve Kinard's ouster to the street, marching in front of the school district offices for more than an hour. The protesters urged drivers along Main Street to honk in support of Kinard, who was told by Superintendent Pete Kelly on Friday that he would not be returning to WTI for the next school year as director, a post Kinard has held since 1985.
LAWMAKERS ADD MINING PROPOSAL TO BILL: During the final days of the recent legislative session, lawmakers put a proposal in a major transportation bill to remove local oversight of mine blasting. The issue is an explosive one in counties with extensive mining operations, such as Citrus. The proposal would place blasting oversight under the state fire marshal's office, which would rely on federal regulations relating to the operation and handling of explosives along with the ground vibrations and air blasts created by them. But after reading the document for the first time, a Citrus development official and an Inverness lawyer who represents local mine owners predicted the proposed changes would have little effect in the county.
REPORT SAYS CRIME IN COUNTY DROPS: Citrus County residents reported some 1,070 major crimes such as robberies, murders, auto thefts, rapes and burglaries last year, down from the year before _ like crime statistics for the rest of the country. In 1998, the total number of major crimes reported was 1,207. There has been a decrease in such crimes since a high of 1,559 in 1996. The total for 1997 was 1,403. These and other statistics, as well as a description of programs run by the Citrus County Sheriff's Office, were included in a first-ever annual report now available at various community centers.