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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • Aug 2, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Michigan lends aid to Western states battling wildfires

LANSING (AP) — More than a dozen personnel with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources are helping battle wildfires in the West.

The DNR said a three-member crew has taken one of the agency's engines to a fire in northern California that has burned more than 100,000 acres and caused six deaths.

Dan Laux of the Forest Resources Division said Michigan is mobilizing as many people as it can to help. He recently returned from a two-week assignment in Oregon.

Michigan has sent firefighters this year to California, Colorado, Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.

Officials say the DNR keeps enough of its team members on hand to deal with fires that might break out, although recent rains have reduced their numbers in Michigan. The state is reimbursed for sending firefighters elsewhere.

Storms dump heavy rain on Detroit area, spawn weak tornado

DETROIT (AP) — Severe thunderstorms dumped heavy rain on the Detroit area early Wednesday and spawned a brief, weak tornado that damaged three buildings.

The National Weather Service said the EF-0 tornado that hit the city of Taylor packed 80 mph winds and lasted two minutes. It damaged a roof, signage and air conditioning units.

The weather service said up to 3 inches of rain fell overnight in parts of Wayne and Monroe counties. At least one Detroit-area freeway was temporarily closed by flooding, but the roadway was reopened as the water receded.

Flood warnings were in effect Wednesday morning. The storms also brought high winds and scattered power outages.

Group gets standing in challenge to West Michigan dune development

SAUGATUCK (AP) — An environmental group has been granted standing in its effort to challenge a planned development of high-end homes in sand dunes along Lake Michigan.

David Swan, president of the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance, told The Holland Sentinel the update is "an enormous victory." It allows for arguments to continue in court.

Holland residents Jeff and Peg Padnos are working to develop 23 homes near Saugatuck Dunes State Park. Some would be built on dune grass, while others are to be constructed along the Kalamazoo River.

Carl Gabrielse, attorney for the Padnoses, said they'll "take the appropriate steps to protect the private property ... and the numerous state and local permits already received."

The alliance challenged a permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality after it was approved in January.

2 doctors among 5 charged in prescription opioid scheme

DETROIT (AP) — Two Detroit-area physicians and a medical clinic operator are among five women indicted in a scheme that issued more than 674,500 dosage units of opioid prescriptions.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit said Wednesday that the drugs included the highly addictive oxycodone and oxymorphone, and carried a "conservative" street value of more than $20 million."

Dr. Michele Ritter, Dr. Charise Valentine, Iris Winchester, Joyce Robinson and Kristina Brown are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute controlled substances. The government says prescriptions were issued at Winchester's clinic north of Detroit to people who had no legitimate medical need for the drugs.

The Associated Press was unable Wednesday to reach Ritter, Winchester, Valentine, Robinson or Brown for comment. It was not immediately clear if any have attorneys.

Tips help authorities identify Thumb-area grass fire suspect

BAD AXE (AP) — Police said tips generated by media coverage helped them find a suspect in a series of Michigan grass fires over the past two months.

The Huron County Sheriff's Office said the female suspect was found this week and cooperated with deputies. She's believed to be responsible for six roadside fires in the Bad Axe and Kinde areas, about 100 miles north of Detroit.

Those fires occurred over a 45-day period starting June 1, but police said there have been other suspicious roadside fires in the county this summer.

More tips are being sought from the public and prosecutors are expected to consider charges.

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