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Happy birthday, Lu the hippo!

Lucifer the hippopotamus will belatedly celebrate his 44th birthday at 9 a.m. Thursday at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. Park ranger Ken Torres and volunteer Tom Sinclair will present the hippopotamus with his own birthday cake. Frank Zecca of Sweet Georgia Brown's ice cream parlor in Homosassa Springs will also be bringing a special watermelon surprise for the hippopotamus. Two second-grade classes from Homosassa Elementary School will be attending the party to help "Lu" celebrate his birthday. Volunteer George Schulz will play the accordion. Cupcakes for the schoolchildren will be provided by park volunteers. Lucifer, an African hippopotamus, was born on Jan. 26, 1960, at San Diego Zoo. He weighed 90 pounds at birth. He was a star of movies and television. For more information, call the park at 628-5343.

Car crash ignites brush fire

INVERNESS _ A car crash on N Croft Avenue caused an intense brush fire along the busy highway Sunday afternoon. The flames followed a two-car crash, which toppled a wooden power pole. The pole caught fire. No one in the cars was injured, according to sheriff's officials, but one of the cars was destroyed. Sparks from the flames also ignited the lawn at a nearby health food store. A deputy used a fire extinguisher from his car's trunk to put out the flames, which caused some damage to a wooden sign. The crash happened at about 3 p.m., and the fire was brought under control in about an hour. The area is a block behind the new Beall's department store at the former Wal-Mart location.

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