State Police Conduct Sobriety Checkpoint

The Maryland State Police stopped 702 vehicles Saturday night at a sobriety checkpoint on southbound Route 5 in Charlotte Hall. St. Mary's County sheriff's deputies also participated.

The checkpoint was set up for nearly three hours, from about 11:40 p.m. Saturday to 2:30 a.m. Sunday.

Three drivers were arrested for driving while intoxicated, the State Police reported. In addition, one person was arrested for possession of marijuana, and one juvenile was cited for underage drinking.

The effort was part of the national "Lifesavers Weekend" campaign to reduce drunken driving during the holidays.

St. Mary's Hospital Gains Emergency Chief

St. Mary's Hospital in Leonardtown announced that Ira Mehlman has joined the staff as chief of emergency medicine.

Mehlman, a graduate of the Cornell University medical school and Princeton University, comes to St. Mary's from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, where he was chief of emergency medicine.

"It's good to be here at St. Mary's Hospital," Mehlman said in a statement announcing his new position. "This is a dynamic area to work in, with the tremendous growth of St. Mary's County and the challenges we face in emergency medicine."

Mehlman, who is board certified in internal endocrinology/metabolism and emergency medicine, has also taught medicine at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences and at Georgetown University Medical Center.

Organization Sponsoring Youth Program

The Concerned Black Men of Calvert County, a nonprofit organization working to strengthen African American families, is sponsoring sessions of the "Real Life" program for youth.

The program is designed to expose youths to some of life's extremes to foster insight into the consequences of actions and self-awareness, as well as to develop decision-making skills.

During the program, participants will visit jails, trauma centers, funeral homes, drug rehabilitation facilities and other sites to get an inside view of how high-risk behavior can change their lives. In addition, an outdoor adventure component of the program is designed to test participants' trust in one another, according to a statement from the group.

Youngsters 10 and older are eligible to participate and must have parental permission. Registration and other information is available by calling 410-326-1993 or 301-855-0251.

State Fire Marshal Issues Safety Reminders

In the wake of two serious fires in Southern Maryland and several others around the state, State Fire Marshal Rocco J. Gabriele issued a list of safety reminders this week aimed at preventing home fires.

A house in Saint Inigoes in St. Mary's County sustained an estimated $200,000 in damage Saturday from a fire that investigators said started when a fish tank heater malfunctioned and ignited a fire on the table where the fish tank was sitting. Flames spread from the family room of the house to the outside eaves and caused damage throughout the structure, the fire marshal's office reported.

On Saturday night, a Chesapeake Beach fire caused an estimated $220,000 in damage to another house. Investigators, who described the house on Fifth Street as a complete loss, said the blaze started because a space heater was sitting too close to combustible materials.

No one was injured in either fire.

The fire marshal's office issued the following safety reminders:

* Be careful with all smoking materials.

* Keep all lighting devices (lighters, matches, etc.) away from and out of the sight of children.

* Avoid the use of candles.

* If candles must be used, keep them out of reach of children and place them in sturdy metal holders protected by a glass housing.

* Cooking is the leading cause of home fires--have lids available in case the contents of a pan begin to burn.

* Dispose of ashes from fireplaces and wood stoves in a metal container stored outside and away from all structures.

* Bring only freshly cut Christmas trees inside and keep them in water.

* Check electric cords and sockets. Do not repair broken cords; replace them.

* Keep electric space heaters at least three feet from combustibles.

* Use only clear K-1 kerosene in kerosene heaters. Do not use gasoline. Do not refuel a heater when it is hot.

* Install smoke alarms on all levels of your house and check their batteries.

Gabriele said smoke detectors cost less than $6 and suggested that they would make great holiday gifts.

Senior Housing Available Through Agency

Community Support Systems Inc., a private nonprofit social services agency working in northern Charles and southern Prince George's counties, has affordable housing available in Brandywine for independent seniors living on a limited income.

Fees are set according to a sliding scale, the agency said. References are required. For additional information, call 301-888-9355.

Several Government Offices to Be Closed

Many local government offices and agencies will be closed tomorrow for the Christmas holiday. Officials advise calling ahead before visiting an office on Friday to be sure it is open.

Each county in Southern Maryland also has set holiday hours for landfills and trash transfer stations.

In Calvert County, the Appeal landfill and all compactor sites will close at 4 p.m. tomorrow and on Dec. 31. The facilities will be closed this Saturday and Sunday and on New Year's Day. The Appeal landfill and facilities at Mount Hope and Barstow will be open Jan. 2 from noon to 5 p.m.

In Charles County, the landfill and recycling centers will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Curbside recycling service will not be affected.

In St. Mary's County, the convenience centers and transfer stations at Charlotte Hall, Clements, Oakville, Ridge, Valley Lee and on St. Andrews Church Road will be closed this Saturday and Sunday, as well as on New Year's Day. The St. Andrews landfill will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

Police Barrack Seeking Program Volunteers

The Maryland State Police Leonardtown Barrack is seeking individuals interested in becoming Volunteers in Police Support (VIPS), a program in which citizens perform a variety of non-enforcement tasks.

Assignments include fingerprinting people for background checks, filing, typing and computer data input.

Volunteers must be at least 18 and undergo a full background check.

Anyone interested should call Gloria Tippett or Robin Guy at the Leonardtown Barrack during business hours Monday through Friday. The number is 301-475-8955.