MARYLAND

Firefighters Exposed to Freon Hospitalized

Six firefighters were hospitalized for observation last night after coming into contact with refrigerant gas that was leaking from an air-conditioning unit at a department store in the Hillandale area, Montgomery County fire officials said.

Employees at the Ames store in the 10100 block of New Hampshire Avenue noticed smoke coming from an air conditioner at the rear of the store, and store officials decided to evacuate about 15 employees and 150 customers before firefighters arrived.

Firefighters spent about 30 minutes taking apart the air conditioner and searching for the source of what appeared to be a thin haze of smoke before discovering that the unit was leaking Freon gas. The firefighters had been carrying--but were not wearing--self-contained breathing units, a fire department spokesman said.

The firefighters were taken to Washington Adventist Hospital for examination because Freon, when exposed to an open flame or heated surface, converts to deadly phosgene gas--a chemical warfare agent that can cause severe respiratory problems hours after exposure, officials said. Firefighters later determined the Freon had not been exposed to any kind of heat source, and the leak was contained by 9 p.m.

Racetrack Worker Struck by Car

A flagman at a St. Mary's County speedway was struck by a race car as he waved the caution flag to tell drivers to be careful, Maryland State Police said yesterday.

Michael Francis Stello, 38, of Beltsville, was listed in critical condition at Prince George's Hospital Center in Cheverly from injuries he suffered in the crash Saturday night, hospital officials said. Police said Stello was hit about 8:50 p.m. by a 1992 Chevrolet Camaro that went out of control at the Potomac Speedway. The driver was not injured, and no other cars were involved in the accident, police said.

THE DISTRICT

Three Teens Arrested in Park Vandalism

U.S. Park Police have arrested three juveniles on charges relating to the spray-paint vandalism that occurred in Rock Creek Park on Memorial Day weekend.

The vandals damaged 25 trees and a dozen boulders, using orange and blue paint along a half-mile path that connects 17th Street NW in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood with Beach Drive in the park. Park officials covered the damage with dark and stone-colored paint.

Two of the juveniles are 14, and one is 13; their names were not released because of their ages.

Motorcycle Crash Kills Rider

A 27-year-old man died Saturday night after his motorcycle crashed into a tree in the 600 block of New York Avenue NE, police said.

The man, whose identity was not released, was pronounced dead on the scene after the 9:26 p.m. accident.

VIRGINIA

Faulkner Story Finally Getting Published

More than 50 years after it was written and rejected by two magazines, a short story by William Faulkner will be published for the first time this week in the University of Virginia's literary journal, its editor said.

"Lucas Beauchamp: An Unpublished Story" will appear in its short-story format in the Virginia Quarterly Review. A different version is part of Faulkner's 1948 novel "Intruder in the Dust."

"I don't think anybody thought there would be anything of Faulkner's left to publish," said Staige Blackford, editor of the U-Va. journal. "Not like Hemingway, who left behind a whole mess of stuff."

In a letter to his agent, Harold Ober, in February 1948, Faulkner wrote that the story is about "a relationship between Negro and white, specifically or rather the premise being that the white people in the South . . . owe and must pay a responsibility to the Negro."

Harper's and the Atlantic Monthly rejected the short story that year.

A Faulkner scholar, the Rev. Patrick Samway, obtained a copy of "Lucas Beauchamp" in 1975 when he was preparing his dissertation on "Intruder in the Dust."

"In 'Lucas Beauchamp,' Faulkner is trying to show how the young generation growing up in the South have to change and learn to respect their black elders," said Samway, a professor of humanities at St. Peter's College in Jersey City. "It's very good Faulkner."

Samway said his copy of the story may be the only one in existence. He said he had forgotten about it until he came across it about nine months ago while cleaning up his files. He contacted Virginia Quarterly Review about publishing it.

Faulkner, who died in 1962, went to U-Va. in 1957 as the university's first writer in residence.

Lotto Ticket Worth $20.7 Million

A Lotto player in Staunton bought a ticket worth $20.7 million, the Virginia Lottery said yesterday. The jackpot winner picked the six numbers drawn Saturday night: 3, 4, 6, 32, 35 and 43.

Fifty tickets had five numbers right to win $1,310, and 2,521 tickets had four numbers right to win $59. A free Lotto ticket goes to the buyers of the 45,567 tickets that had three correct numbers.

Federal Grants Go to Plan Drug Courts

The U.S. Department of Justice has awarded a total of more than $105,000 to several Virginia cities and counties to help them set up "drug courts," an increasingly popular kind of alternative court that deals with nonviolent drug offenders.

Drug courts, which already operate in six Virginia localities and 350 places nationwide, have been popular with the legal community because they expedite drug cases that typically clog criminal court dockets.

Drug courts also provide intensive supervision, testing and treatment to offenders in an attempt to stop their drug use from recurring. Prosecutors may offer reduced or dismissed sentences as incentives to offenders who volunteer for the alternative court.

The grants given to Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Newport News and Chesterfield County are planning funds, Justice Department officials said. After the communities plan their courts, they can apply for federal implementation grants.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

"Our intent is not to alarm people, but put people at ease that things are under control. We are going to have this city work for people."

-- D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, on the city's plans for dealing with possible year 2000 computer problems.