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Discarded cigarette causes $20K damage to Days Inn

EASTON — A local fire chief is warning residents and visitors to use care when discarding cigarettes and other smoking products.

Two incidents in one day prompted Easton Volunteer Fire Department Chief Sonny Jones to give this advice: “Carefully dispose of smoking materials in a proper receptacle.”

Firefighters from Easton, Oxford and Trappe fire companies, as well as the Talbot County Department of Emergency Services responded to a structure fire at 4:17 p.m. Monday, June 29, at the Days Inn by Wyndham, 7018 Ocean Gateway in Easton.

The cause of the fire was a cigarette discarded in mulch at the base of an outside pillar leading to the second floor. It took about a half hour for 39 firefighters to control the fire, which was discovered by an employee, who then called 911.

“The column had burned completely away” by the time firefighters arrived, Jones said.

According to the state fire marshal’s report, “The motel was immediately evacuated and no injuries were reported. The fire damage was contained to the exterior of the motel and no tenants were displaced as a result of the fire.”

Within a short period of time, the same firefighters also responded to a call at Magnolia Meadows in Easton where a small fire had started. A passerby noticed the siding on fire at a storage building at apartment 412, 7080 Lauren Lane.

Bystanders extinguished the fire, and firefighters had it under control in minutes, Jones said.

The preliminary cause of this fire also was improperly discarded smoking materials in mulch, Jones said.

“Never flick a cigarette into mulch as dry as it is,” Jones said. “Mulch can smolder for hours. If these incidents had happened at night, the fires would have been much more advanced.”

Deputy State Fire Marshal John Grothe advises people to discard smoking materials in a proper container, considering the current weather conditions of excessive heat and low humidity.

Grothe cautioned residents and visitors to practice fire safety “especially with Fourth of July grilling. “Don’t discard embers in in an unsafe manner or container,” he said.

Another fire still under investigation occurred at 10:14 p.m. Tuesday, June 23. Easton Volunteer Fire Department deployed eight firefighters to extinguish a blaze in a municipal recycling container at 20 Kelley Gibson St., Easton.

The fire was controlled in about 10 minutes, but caused about $200 in damage. Anyone with information regarding this incident is encouraged to contact the Upper Eastern Regional Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal at 410-822-7609.

Court case continues as state reopening proceeds

While Gov. Larry Hogan has issued orders slowly reopening the state following a series of closures due to COVID-19, the lawsuit filed against him and other state officials continues along two separate but related paths.

On May 20, U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake issued a decision denying a preliminary injunction filed by several plaintiffs on May 2, including delegates Warren Miller (R-Carroll, Howard), Dan Cox (R-Carroll, Frederick) and Neil Parrott (R-Washington), as well as 10 pastors and other church representatives, two former members of the U.S. military, two businesses and the group Reopen Maryland, LLC, alleging a number of U.S. and Maryland constitutional violations against Hogan and his administration.

The day following that decision, the plaintiffs filed an appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and on May 26, filed an amended complaint in the original district court case. Both of those actions are now pending.

In the case before the Fourth Circuit the original plaintiffs, now appellants in that case, filed an emergency motion for an injunction or for a stay of the district court proceedings pending appeal on June 11 and the defendants/appellees filed a response to the motion on June 22.

In the emergency motion, the appellants argue that there is a difference of medical opinion regarding Hogan’s shutdown orders and that such shutdowns are causing “an irreversible mass casualty event.” In part, appellant’s cite a CNBC interview of the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said in that interview that “stay at home orders [are] causing irreparable damage.” They also cite to Dr. Scott W. Atlas who wrote that “isolation policies now have no basis in lowering risk of death from COVID-19.”

Appellants also cite to an article in Forbes magazine that reported that 600 physicians are saying that nationwide lock-downs are causing a mass casualty incident.

In their motion, appellants also argue that executive orders from county executives throughout the state are in conflict, with some counties implementing more restrictive measures than the governor’s executive orders. They further argue that the governor is violating the rights of reverends and congregants in the state by violating their free exercise rights.

Appellants finally argue the stay-at-home orders, large gathering and facial covering orders have no basis in either state statute or constitutionally based executive powers as well as arguments under the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause.

For their response, the appellees argue that the Fourth Circuit should deny appellant’s request in part because the orders they are seeking to enjoin are no longer in effect due to the fact Hogan has loosened restrictions throughout the state.

The appellees further argue that the state has a paramount interest in preserving lives during the COVID-19 outbreak and therefore the actions of the governor are constitutional. They also argue that the governor’s orders are neutral as they pertain to gatherings and do not violate religious liberty principles.

The appellees further argue that the governor’s orders met the test for permissible time, place and manner restrictions and the distinction between essential and non-essential businesses has a rational basis in protecting public health.

While the appeal is ongoing, the underlying case is still proceeding as well following the filing of the plaintiff’s amended complaint.

In the defendant’s motion to dismiss the amended complaint, they argue that the plaintiffs have “offered this Court nothing more of substance to support their claims…”

More specifically the defendant’s argue that Dr. Fauci’s comments to CNBC brought forward by the Plaintiffs is actually more balanced than the plaintiff’s portray them and that the “thrust” of Fauci’s comments actually describe precisely what Maryland is doing.

Many of the defendant’s other arguments effectively mirror arguments made previously in the district court case and before the Fourth Circuit.

In their response to the defendant’s motion in the district court case, filed Friday, the plaintiffs also make many of the same arguments they have made previously, but they also argue that the recent protests over the death of George Floyd, “where photos show hundreds of people are demonstrating without social distancing or masks, while at the same time banning churches, legislators and businesses from gatherings of more than 10 people, indicate his executive orders are mistreating churches, businesses and individuals…”

Mid-Shore July 4 fireworks at 3 locations

Kent Narrows

61 Piney Narrows Road in Chester

9 p.m. Wednesday, July 1 (rain date July 2)

Parking: free, “old outlets” parking lot opens 7 p.m.

Precautions: Attendees asked to stay in cars; social distancing with masks suggested if gathered outside of vehicles; bring own hand sanitizer; restrooms available

Details: no related on-site activities offered this year


28398 St. Michaels Road (field at rear of Waterside Village shopping center)

9:30 p.m. Saturday, July 4 (rain date July 5)

Parking: Waterside Village

Precautions: size of space allows for social distancing; mask is suggested; watch from car if in a high-risk health category; hand-washing stations and restrooms available

Details: no related on-site activities offered this year; alcohol free; packed food acceptable; plan to be settled in place by 8:30 p.m.

St. Michaels

24750 Yacht Club Road (Miles River Yacht Club not open to public)

9:30 p.m. Saturday, July 4 (rain date July 5)

Parking: public parking where available

Precautions: none advertised

Details: none advertised

No fireworks displays will be held in Kent, Caroline or Dorchester counties this year due to concerns prompted by the current coronavirus pandemic.

Delaware to remove whipping post display from state grounds

GEORGETOWN, Del. (AP) — Delaware officials are set to remove a whipping post that was historically used to hold people as they were publicly lashed for committing crimes.

The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs will bring down the 8-foot (2.4-meter) concrete post located outside the Old Sussex County Courthouse in Georgetown on Wednesday and place it in a Dover storage unit with other historical artifacts, according to a statement issued by the agency Tuesday.

Officials said the post would be removed in response to calls from the community and “in recognition of the violence and racial discrimination that its display signified.”

“Such relics of the past should be placed in museums to be preserved and protected for those who want to remember the cruel, inhuman, barbarous acts perpetrated on our citizens,” said Reba Hollingsworth, vice chair of the Delaware Heritage Commission.

The state-owned post was put on display on the grounds of the courthouse by the Georgetown Historical Society in 1993, nearly two decades after Delaware outlawed state-sanctioned public floggings outside local jails and prisons. It was the last state to abolish the whipping post, news outlets reported.

People of all races were subject to the lashings, but a book published in 1947 by Robert Caldwell, a former sociology professor in the state, said more than 60% of those beaten between 1900 and 1945 were Black, The Delaware News Journal reported. At that time, Black people made up less than 20% of Delaware’s population.

“People should not have to ride by and be reminded of the atrocities that people faced at some points in Delaware’s history,” the news outlet quoted Jane Hovington, treasurer for the Delaware NAACP, as saying.

Hovington said state officials had been urged to remove the whipping post even before the death of George Floyd sparked international protests and set off a push to remove Confederate monuments, flags and other icons that many say are symbols of racism. Floyd, a Black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes as he pleaded for air.

Activists in Delaware are also calling on the Georgetown Historical Society to remove a Confederate flag that sits on private property outside a museum in the city.