OLYMPIA — The Capitol rotunda in Olympia is closed after a one-pound piece of plaster fell from the columns high overhead.
State maintenance workers found the chunk Monday on the seventh floor above the central rotunda. It was smaller than a football, and had broken away from a row of columns one floor above.
Even though the plaster didn’t fall all the way to the open rotunda floor 150 feet below, officials have roped off access as a safety precaution. An inspection is scheduled for Wednesday.
The rotunda will be closed indefinitely, but tours are still going on and visitors can see the elaborate ceiling from different vantage points within the Capitol.
Yakima: Firefighters gain ground on wildfire
A wildfire that burned on nearly 10 square miles of dry grass and sagebrush in central Washington is now 85 percent contained.
West Valley Fire and Rescue spokeswoman Christy Boisselle said Tuesday that fire crews also have confirmed that four outbuildings and one vacant residence were destroyed in the fire, and a vacant structure owned by the Department of Fish and Wildlife was damaged.
Fences, pump houses and fruit trees also were damaged in the area.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. It started Sunday about 10 miles west of downtown Yakima.
Spokane: Seattle man dies at track
A Seattle man died after a crash at the Spokane County Raceway last weekend, but no investigation was done because the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office was not notified about the incident.
On Sunday, 27-year-old Khalil Mohmed of Seattle was racing in an event run by the Washington Motorcycle Road Racing Association when he crashed. He died later Sunday from a head injury.
While the Spokane County Parks Department was informed Monday, the Sheriff’s Office was not. Sheriff Detective Dave Thornburg said they should have been called to investigate the death.
Leavenworth: Missing hiker’s body found
An autopsy is scheduled to determine the cause of death for a missing hiker whose body was found off a trail near Windy Pass in the Leavenworth area.
Chelan County Sheriff Mike Harum said the body of Mark Swenson was found by a hiker Saturday at the 7,000-foot level of a trail that leads to Mount Cashmere in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
Harum told the Wenatchee World it appears he was cutting across country, rather than staying on the trail. There was no indication of a fall or other injury.
The 56-year-old Soap Lake man had been missing since July 6.
Seattle: King County voters to decide sales tax hike
King County voters will decide in November whether to raise the sales tax to help pay for public safety — deputies, proseuctors and jails.
The county council voted Monday to put the issue on the ballot to head off a $60 million cut in planned spending. King County Sheriff Sue Rahr said without more money she would have to lay off deputies and stop investigating some crimes.
Opponents said a tax increase is a bad idea as the Seattle area tries to recover from the recession.
The tax increase would be two-tenths of a cent on each dollar in sales.
Kennewick: Couple want to open church in home
A Kennewick couple who have been blocked from starting a church in their home are taking the city to court.
The Tri-City Herald reports Joshua and Julie Morgan accuse the city of religious discrimination.
City officials said the church was denied because it was part of a plan to continue holding outdoor weddings and receptions on the property, and the Morgans have been told to stop. Neighbors have complained about traffic, noise and litter.
Morgan said he has performed hundreds of weddings and felt called to start a church. He has a license for home-based portrait photography and wedding planning, but not weddings and receptions.
Wenatchee: Man accused of raping girl on birthday
A 50-year-old Wenatchee man is accused of raping a 16-year-old girl on her birthday as a rite of passage.
Investigators say the man gave the girl six to eight shots of vodka and talked to her about the “rites of passage” on turning 16.
The Wenatchee World reported he was charged July 12 with furnishing liquor to a minor and sexual assault.
The girl was taken to a Wenatchee hospital by her mother.
Alaska: Coast Guard training prompt 911 calls
To some 911 callers, it looked like a fiery plane crash just offshore of downtown Anchorage. Others thought it was a boat in trouble.
The Coast Guard was practicing shooting emergency flares during a rescue exercise Tuesday morning, but no one informed city authorities who hustled fire crews to the scene after getting as many as half a dozen reports from worried callers.
The Coast Guard said it won’t happen again.
Petty Officer David Mosley said such yearly training exercises are usually conducted at a range at nearby Fort Richardson, but space was not available for Tuesday’s flare practice.
Ore.: Fisherman rescued as ship sinks off Columbia
A Washington state fisherman was rescued by the Coast Guard just before his boat sank off the Oregon coast.
Officials said 53-year-old Michael Arthur Stone of Longview was rescued Tuesday morning by a helicopter crew from Coast Guard Group Astoria.
The Coast Guard said Stone was 20 miles west of the Columbia River entrance at about 5 a.m. when an emergency beacon signal and a broken radio call of “mayday” was received.
A nearby fishing vessel, Gallatin Point, responded to the emergency beacon and reported that the 34-foot Rose Marie was low in the water and that one person was in a life raft hanging on to the boat’s stern.
Stone was treated at a hospital in Astoria and released.