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Kathryn Varn, Times Staff Writer

Kathryn Varn

Kathryn Varn covers public safety in north Pinellas County and news in the city of Largo. She is from the Jacksonville area and graduated from the University of Florida, where she studied journalism.

Phone: (727) 893-8913

Email: kvarn@tampabay.com

Twitter: @kathrynvarn

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  1. Odessa wild fire mostly contained after battle with fast-growing flames

    Fire

    ODESSA — Crews battled Sunday a wild fire that authorities said started in a pile of mulch and spread to a wooded area north of State Road 54.

    The Florida Forest Service reported Sunday afternoon the fire was holding steady at 40 acres and 90 percent contained. Officials said the blaze started at PAW Materials, a yard waste recycling facility on State Road 54 just east of Gunn Highway. A pile of mulch there spontaneously combusted in this weekend's record-breaking heat and cut west across a large field into the woods....

    Pasco County Fire Rescue crews are battling a brush fire that started Sunday morning in a wooded area north of State Road 54 and Gunn Highway. [Howard Altman | Times]
  2. Medical marijuana dispensaries on Largo commission's agenda

    Local Government

    LARGO — Commissioners will consider during Tuesday's commission meeting an ordinance to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.

    The proposed ordinance is in response to the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 that authorized the use of low-THC and medical marijuana, not the Constitutional amendment approved by voters in the November election.

    Development of medical marijuana dispensaries within Largo has been under a 180-day moratorium since December while city officials drafted the new rules. The proposed ordinance, which commissioners will vote on in public hearings on Tuesday and May 16, includes:...

    Largo will take up restrictions on medical marijuana on Tuesday. (AP Photo)
  3. Sheriff's Office: Deputies roll up to house party as intoxicated teen jumps off roof

    News

    Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies said they were already called to the house in unincorporated Largo twice for complaints about a loud party.

    They issued two warnings and told the host, 20-year-old Salvador Andres Contreras, to keep it down, according to his arrest report.

    As they rolled up a third time just after 1 a.m. on April 23, an intoxicated 17-year-old boy jumped off the roof of the one-story house at 13461 Del Prado Drive S. They also saw several people drinking and smelled marijuana inside the house....

  4. About 50 march through downtown St. Petersburg in remembrance of Holocaust

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rabbi pointed to his sign to explain why he and about 50 other people marched Sunday through downtown St. Petersburg.

    "Never forget," it read.

    "This is all about never forgetting," said Rabbi Steven Weiler of Shoresh David Messianic Synagogues, "because if we remember, we won't repeat it."

    The group walked from the Florida Holocaust Museum to North Straub Park holding signs and Israeli flags as part of a worldwide remembrance of the 6 million Jewish people killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during the Holocaust. The march had three goals to keep in mind, Weiler said: never again, never forget and do not be silent....

    About 50 people walked from the Florida Holocaust Museum to North Straub Park on Sunday as part of a worldwide remembrance of the 6 million Jewish people killed during the Holocaust.
  5. Collier County evacuations lifted as brush fires continue around Florida

    Fire

    Evacuation orders have been lifted in Collier County where a brush fire has been raging over the weekend along with two others in Lee and Polk counties and more than 100 across the state.

    Collier County officials said Sunday the roughly 5,500-acre fire in Golden Gate Estates is about 50 percent contained and the rest close to being secured after firefighters were aided by rain.

    "There was a lot of good work done last night, and Mother Nature gets credit for giving us a little bit of a break," said Dan Summers, director of Collier County emergency services, during a news conference....

    Firefighters were not able to save this large shed type structure during the Indian Lake Estates wildfire.  Aerial view of a wildfire in the Indian Lake Estate subdivision near Lake Wales. Dozens of firefighters battled the 700+ acre wildfire saving dozens of homes with fire approaching within feet of the houses. Fire officials evacuated the hundreds of residents in the subdivision but lifted the evacuation order at 4:00pm on Saturday.[Saturday, April 22, 2017] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  6. In Clearwater, a new paramedic unit for medical calls improves response for bigger emergencies

    Public Safety

    CLEARWATER — The paramedics were in the 7-Eleven parking lot for barely a minute when the first call came in Tuesday.

    Chris Johnson, heading into the convenience store, turned on his heel and got back into the driver's seat of the SUV packed with medical equipment. Within a few minutes, he and paramedic Carlos Rivera were outside a soup kitchen checking the blood sugar of a man experiencing a seizure....

    Paramedics from Clearwater Fire Rescue (in dark shirts) Chris Johnson, 36, left, and Carlos Rivera, 23, help a man who was having seizures outside the St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen.
  7. Police: St. Petersburg man drops own poop into laundromat washing machine

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Police: St. Petersburg man drops own poop into laundromat washing machine

    A 57-year-old man defecated on the floor of a laundromat then dropped his poop into a washing machine, according to St. Petersburg police.

    About 7:40 a.m. Saturday, a witness saw Michael Shannon poop on the floor of a laundromat at 3435 15th Ave. S. Shannon picked up the feces and pressed it into the detergent-loading compartment of a washing machine. The incident caused $475 worth of damage, according to Shannon's arrest report....

  8. Pinellas County hires former Clearwater fire official for top public safety job

    Public Safety

    Pinellas County filled its top emergency services job last month with a former Clearwater fire deputy chief who spent the last decade leading a large emergency medical services system in Washington state.

    Jim Fogarty, 62, was chosen from about four dozen applicants for his extensive experience managing EMS for King County, home to Seattle, said Assistant County Manager John Bennett. Before that, Fogarty spent about 25 years with the Clearwater Fire and Rescue Department, where he rose to deputy chief of emergency medical services....

    Jim Fogarty, director of safety and emergency services, has been on the job 3 weeks.
  9. Mystery shrouds death and disappearance of Tarpon Springs fishing captain

    Human Interest

    TARPON SPRINGS — It began as a fishing trip like any other.

    Gregory Lasnier stocked the commercial fishing boat he captained with ice, bait and groceries. He waited for a deckhand who never showed. A friend hugged him goodbye.

    On Feb. 16, he set off alone, leaving his dock behind Holiday Seafood off Island Drive and steering the Daniel I into to the Gulf of Mexico as he had so many times before....

    Gregory Lasnier, 53, takes stock of the boat he captained, the Daniel I. Lasnier was found dead in the boat’s cabin 10 days after he set off from Tarpon Springs on a commercial fishing trip.
  10. Hernando Beach brush fire grows to 650 acres as crews continue to battle flames

    Fire

    HERNANDO BEACH — A fire whipped by overnight winds burned through about 650 acres of brush Sunday near Hernando Beach.

    Crews from the Withlacoochee Forestry Center and Hernando County Fire Rescue had put out about 50 percent of the blaze, which is contained within the 11,000-acre Weekiwachee Preserve. Hernando County officials said they expect the fire to burn about 1,000 acres.

    No structures were threatened as of Sunday evening, although crews are monitoring some nearby businesses, said Hernando County Fire Rescue spokesman Alex Lopez....

    Firefighters were on the scene of a massive fire in Hernando Beach on Sunday.
  11. Police: Man, 37, couldn't pay cab fare because he 'made it rain' at club

    Crime

    LARGO

    Police: Man, 37, couldn't pay cab fare because he 'made it rain' at club

    A 37-year-old man told police he had no money to pay his cab fare because he "made it rain" at a club, according to Largo police.

    Just before 1 a.m. March 21, Cheler Destra requested a taxi ride from St. Petersburg to Largo. The cab driver took him to a 7-Eleven at 6333 Ulmerton Road so Destra, who is listed in his arrest report as transient, could take out money to pay the $37.25 fare....

  12. African-American man sues bank, lawyer says he was racially profiled

    Civil

    CLEARWATER — An African-American man is suing a bank, claiming he was illegally detained. His lawyer attributes the incident to racial profiling.

    Hne Yuoh visited the Fifth Third Bank branch at 2710 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd. to deposit money on Dec. 27 when he was locked in a space between the doors connecting the entrance to the lobby, according to the lawsuit. He was later let go after Clearwater police officers determined no crime had occurred....

  13. Pinellas Suncoast fire district spent more than 10 times budget for lawyers

    Fire

    INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — A small fire department that services several coastal communities spent more than 10 times what was budgeted for legal fees last year, the result of several lawsuits and personnel disputes.

    While the district budgeted $20,000 for legal fees last year, the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District ended up shelling out about $230,000 to pay lawyers who represented them in a series of legal disputes....

    Pinellas Suncoast Fire Chief Salvatore D’Angelo says legal action was needed.
  14. Largo police: Pinellas school teacher arrested on child pornography charges

    Crime

    LARGO — A sixth-grade social studies teacher was arrested Tuesday after police said they found child pornography on his computer.

    The pornography, which police said was found on the personal laptop of Robert James Plotkin, was downloaded from the Internet and included images of children ages 3 to 17. But none of the teacher's students were included in those images, said Largo police Lt. Joe Coyle....

    Robert James Plotkin, a 57-year-old teacher at Clearwater Intermediate, was arrested Tuesday on 10 counts of possession of child pornography and one count of tampering with physical evidence, according to Largo police. [Courtesy of Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  15. Police: USF defensive back Hassan Childs shot in road rage incident

    Crime

    TAMPA — University of South Florida football player Hassan Childs, 22, was injured in a shooting Saturday night, Tampa police said.

    Tampa police spokesman Lt. Steve Lee said the shooting started as a road rage incident.

    About 11:15 p.m. Saturday, police received a call from a man later identified as Jovanni Jimenez, 26, saying that a man, later identified as Childs, pointed a gun at Jimenez and his wife and child at the Eagles Point Apartments at Tampa Palms, 14551 N 46th St....

    Childs was shot three times and was in stable condition.