Sierra Vista, Ariz.
McCain fans flames: Sen. John McCain set off a storm of controversy this week, claiming that there was “substantial evidence” that illegal immigrants were responsible for the raging wildfires in the state. McCain made the statement while touring a massive wildfire in eastern Arizona, one of five fires that have destroyed 764,000 acres. McCain’s critics charge that he is scapegoating immigrants to appease his political base, as he has done in the past. While authorities suspect humans were responsible for the three major blazes in Arizona, investigators for the U.S. Forest Service reported there was no evidence that undocumented immigrants started any of them.
Floods threaten nuclear plants: The surging Missouri River rose to within 18 inches of forcing a shutdown of the Cooper Nuclear Power Station, which occupies a hill overlooking the river. But thanks to levee breaches downriver, the floodwaters ebbed, and an emergency was averted. Another Nebraska power plant, the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Generating Station, sits surrounded by water, its vital buildings protected by a rubber tube 8 feet high and a third of a mile long. The plant has been kept in a cold shutdown since April, in anticipation of rising waters. The Missouri River is now above flood stage in every state it passes through, and water levels are expected to stay high throughout the summer.
Jersey City, N.J.
Huntsman enters the race: With the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop, former Utah Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr. this week officially announced his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Huntsman pledged to run a cordial campaign, saying that he had “respect” for President Obama; until recently he served Obama as U.S. ambassador to China. That didn’t stop him from taking a swipe at his old boss, though. Declaring that the nation needed a new leader who “knows we need more than hope,” he promised to make “hard decisions” that would stop the U.S. from sinking into a debt “disaster.” Huntsman faces an uphill battle. Six in 10 Republicans told pollsters they didn’t know enough about him to offer an opinion on his presidential chances.
Cape Cod, Mass.
Seal deaths a mystery: Officials this week admitted they had no leads in the investigation of a string of seal shootings on Massachusetts beaches. In the past six weeks, six gray seals have been found shot in the head, their carcasses washed up along a 13-mile stretch of Cape Cod. “We’ve never had anything like this,” said Todd Nickerson, an agent with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The killer remains at large, though investigators believe it could be an angry fisherman, forced to battle the growing seal population over dwindling fish stocks. Several groups, including the International Fund for Animal Welfare, are offering a reward of nearly $15,000.
West Goshen, Pa.
Jackass star dead: Daredevil Jackass star Ryan Dunn, along with a passenger in his car, was killed in a fiery, high-speed crash on a country road in rural Pennsylvania. Dunn, 34, who starred in all three Jackass movies, was said to be driving at least 130 mph when his Porsche 911 GT3 left the road, slammed through a guardrail, hit a tree, and burst into flames. Pennsylvania police said the actor had received at least 23 driving citations in the last 13 years, including one for driving under the influence. Earlier in the evening, Dunn posted a photo on Twitter that showed him drinking with friends.
Wildfires kill two: Two veteran firefighters were killed by fast-moving flames and smoke in rural Hamilton County, as 400 brush fires ravaged the tinder-dry state. This is one of the worst wildfire seasons in recent history, said officials, who noted that the firefighters’ deaths were the first in 26 years. “The bottom line is we need rain,” said Sterling Ivey of Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Since May 1, state and local firefighters have battled more than 1,500 wildfires that have burned nearly 200,000 acres. Florida firefighters face an average
of 31 new wildfires every day, most caused by lightning strikes. Nationwide in 2011, more than 4.3 million acres have burned.