Conn. fire shows dangers of ashes

HARTFORD, Conn. - Fire-safety officials warned homeowners about the dangers of fireplace ashes after a blaze Christmas morning killed five people in Connecticut.

Authorities say the fire in Stamford was caused by a bag of fireplace ashes left near the back of the home. Three sisters - twins, 7, and a 10-year-old - and their grandparents died. The Connecticut medical examiner's office said the victims died of smoke inhalation. Their mother, Madonna Badger, and friend Michael Borcina escaped the blaze after failed attempts to rescue the girls.

The U.S. Fire Administration says ashes can remain hot enough to start a fire for up to 24 hours. It recommends leaving ashes in the fireplace protected by a metal or glass screen with the damper open. If the ashes are removed, they should be placed outside in a metal container well away from the house. Hot embers or ashes cause nearly 11,600 residential U.S. building fires a year, the agency says. - AP

U.S. to pay $17.8M in fatal jet crash

SAN DIEGO - A federal judge Wednesday ordered the U.S. government to pay $17.8 million to a family that lost four members when a Marine Corps fighter jet crashed into their San Diego home in 2008.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller's ruling came after a nonjury trial between the Justice Department and the family, who sought $56 million for emotional and monetary loss.

Don Yoon lost his wife, Youngmi Lee Yoon, 36; daughters Grace, 15 months, and Rachel, 2 months; and his mother-in-law, Seokim Kim Lee, 59, who was visiting from South Korea to help her daughter take care of the children.

In a statement, Yoon said Miller's ruling was "thoughtful, reasoned and just." Yoon broke down crying throughout his testimony, telling the judge he looked forward only to the day when he could join his dead wife and children.

The Marine Corps has said that the plane suffered a mechanical failure but that a series of bad decisions led the pilot - a student, who ejected - to bypass a potentially safe landing at a coastal Navy base. The military disciplined 13 members of the Marines and the Navy for the errors. - AP

Fewer in N.Y. die of heart disease

NEW YORK - Heart-disease deaths in New York City have dropped 28 percent since 2002, a decrease that the Health Department attributes to public-smoking bans, cigarette taxes, and ads depicting tobacco-related illnesses.

The statistics were in a report released by Mayor Michael Bloomberg showing that babies born in New York City have a record life expectancy of 80.6 years, three more than in 2000 and above the national figure of 78.2 years.

In September, the Health Department said the city's adult smoking rate had reached a record low, with 14 of 100 New Yorkers still smoking, down 35 percent since 2002.

- Bloomberg News

Elsewhere:

Reps. Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur (both D., Ohio) will run against each other for their party's nomination next year to represent a reconfigured Ohio congressional district. Ohio's number of House seats was reduced from 18 to 16 after the 2010 census.