Fireworks Blamed for House Fire that Injures Two KC Firefighters
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities in Kansas City, Missouri, believe fireworks are to blame for a Fourth of July blaze at a home that sent two firefighters to the hospital with minor injuries. Deputy Fire Chief Jimmy Walker said two firefighters received burns on their ears and necks in fighting a fire at a two-story home early Thursday. They were treated at a local hospital and released. The Kansas City Star reports that an elderly resident safely fled the home. It's unclear when the fire began. Walker said the fireworks could have been smoldering long before igniting the home. He believes they came from a neighbor, not the resident of the home. He said, "That's why fireworks are illegal in the city." Walker said another home was damaged Wednesday in a fireworks-related fire.
Saline County Town Evacuated after Flooding
DURHAM, Kan. (AP) — Flooding in central Kansas has forced evacuations in a small town along the rain-swollen North Cottonwood River. The flooding resulted from heavy rains Thursday morning. Parts of Saline County received more than 8 inches of rain, while 6 inches fell in Marion County. KAKE-TV reports that about 10 homes in Durham in northwest Marion County along the North Cottonwood had to be evacuated. Mayor Mike Sorensen said the downtown in the community of about 110 residents was under 3 feet of water. Longtime resident Anna Maegoertz said she had to be rescued by boat after water surrounded her house and "It rose quickly. I couldn't get out." Flooding also forced water rescues in Gypsum, southeast of Salina, along Gypsum Creek.
Officials Rebut Lawmaker's Claim Wichita is Sanctuary City
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County officials are pushing back against an area legislator's erroneous assertion during a public meeting that Wichita is a sanctuary city for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. The Wichita Eagle reports that freshman state Rep. Cheryl Helmer, a Mulvane Republican, made the claim this week during a town hall meeting with U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran. Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell said the city regularly cooperates with federal agencies on immigration enforcement. A group advocating strict immigration limits included and then removed Sedgwick County from a list of so-called sanctuary counties last year after Sheriff Jeff Easter complained. Helmer even suggested she had been robbed twice because of "that sanctuary city law." She later backed off that statement and offered no evidence that Wichita is a sanctuary city.
Pittsburg State Wins Grant Targeting Hispanic Teachers
JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — A recently awarded grant will help local teachers who are Hispanic or who teach in districts with large Hispanic populations. The Joplin Globe reports that the Laura Bush 21st-Century Librarian program awarded Pittsburg State University's College of Education a $530,281 grant to provide scholarships, mentoring and laptops to 25 teachers from Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas. University officials said school districts in those four states have experienced significant growth in their Hispanic populations in the past five years. The project to be funded by the grant is called Building Bridges Across Cultures. It will enable 25 future school librarians to earn master's degrees online with an emphasis in library media. A 2013 grant to Pittsburg State focused on Native American culture in teaching and provided scholarships to 25 school librarians.
KDOT Rejects Blame for Bluestem Invasion
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A road maintenance official is pushing back against suggestions that the Kansas Department of Transportation is to blame for an invasion of a plant threatening native grasses. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that KDOT's potential role in spreading bluestem grass is a point of contention as the state Department of Agriculture contemplates quarantining invasive varieties now in 103 of 105 of the state's counties. Ranchers and others attending a Department of Agriculture comment session last month on a possible quarantine said KDOT's mowing regimen carried seed for invasive grasses to new roads. KDOT maintenance chief Clay Adams said the agency includes bluestem varieties in seeding mixtures applied beside highways but not the invasive varieties targeted by the Department of Agriculture. KDOT mows from April to October to improve visibility for motorists.
Group Launches Hotline to Take Complaints Against KCK Police
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A social-justice advocacy group says it is launching a hotline in Kansas City, Kansas, for people to report police misconduct. The Kansas City Star reports that Wednesday's announcement by the Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity comes about a month after it marched on local government offices. A federal lawsuit against the department alleges that now-released Lamonte McIntyre spent 23 years in prison for two 1994 murders he didn't commit because of police misconduct. Another federal lawsuit was filed by a former police cadet alleging she was dismissed after reporting reported sexual harassment and assault by a supervising officer. The police department says it has received complaints relating to only 0.1% of police calls. Local officials say police have a complaint line and there's a Wyandotte County ethics hotline.
Study: Kansas Benefits Most from Federal Disaster Grants
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A study has found that Kansas saves more money, on average, than any other state that uses federal grants to mitigate natural disasters. The Pew Charitable Trusts analysis shows that for every $1 of federal funds spent on protecting against flood and tornado damage, Kansas avoided $6.81 in potential recovery costs. The Kansas News Service reports that Missouri trailed close behind, with each federal dollar saving $6.72. Researchers calculated savings from avoiding casualties, property repairs and business disruptions, among other factors. The findings come after Kansas saw heavy rain and flooding this spring. A May tornado near Pittsburg damaged buildings and toppled power lines and trees. The study's co-author, Colin Foard, says the main takeaway for policymakers is that investing in disaster mitigation pays off.
Lenexa Man Runs Marathons in 50 States Before Turning 50
LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City man has accomplished his goal of completing marathons in all 50 states before the age of 50. The Kansas City Star reports that the final stop on Austin Braithwait's quest was a June 22 race in Duluth, Minnesota. It almost didn't happen. The Lenexa, Kansas, man was 26 when he ran his first marathon in Kansas City, Missouri, during an ice storm. The experience was so miserable that he waited another eight years before running another. But eventually he was hooked, fitting in races around his work travel schedule at UMB Bank. On a couple trips, he squeezed in back-to-back races, running in Mississippi on a Saturday and Alabama on a Sunday. On another trip he ran in Pennsylvania and New Jersey during a single weekend.