Fire analysis cites gear, bad training

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Inadequate training, outdated tactics and aging equipment helped lead to the deaths of nine Charleston firefighters fighting a furniture store blaze last year, according to an analysis by fire experts released yesterday.

The report said firefighters did not follow standard safety practices and had obsolete equipment when battling the Sofa Super Store blaze. Earlier reports also have characterized the department as under-trained and overmatched the evening of June 18 as a small blaze in the store's loading dock spread through the building.

The fire killed more firefighters than any emergency since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The report also said that if a sprinkler system had been installed in the building, a former grocery store, the fire likely would have been confined to the loading dock where it started. The blaze was probably caused by discarded cigarettes, though no official cause has been released.

- AP

Private eye guilty of spying on stars

LOS ANGELES - A Hollywood private investigator was convicted yesterday of federal racketeering and other charges for digging up dirt for his well-heeled clients to use in lawsuits, divorces and contract disputes against the rich and famous.

Anthony Pellicano, 64, was accused of wiretapping stars such as Sylvester Stallone and running the names of others, such as Garry Shandling and Kevin Nealon, through law-enforcement databases to help clients in legal and other disputes. He was found guilty of all but one of the 77 counts against him.

Fourteen people were originally charged and seven, including film director John McTiernan and former Hollywood Records president Robert Pfeifer, have pleaded guilty to perjury and conspiracy. Four others were found guilty yesterday.

- AP

Windy storms slam the South

NEW ORLEANS - Severe storms with damaging winds and possible tornadoes pounded the South, killing at least one person in Louisiana and shattering windows at the Texas Capitol.

In the southern Louisiana town of Grosse Tete, a pecan tree fell onto a camper yesterday, killing a 77-year-old man. Some schools in Louisiana canceled classes, and there were reports of flooding in the region.

An overnight storm also knocked down several large trees at the Texas Capitol in Austin and blew out windows in the dome.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Several workers

were injured and others needed help getting out of the rubble when a roof collapsed yesterday at a clothes hanger factory in Leeds, Ala. About 40 people were inside the plant, but none of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.

A former U.S. Army Corps

of Engineers consultant and a sand and gravel subcontractor were indicted on bribery charges stemming from a probe into levee work after Hurricane Katrina. The were accused of conspiring to get confidential bid information for a $16.8 million levee project in 2006.