MARYLAND

In Baltimore, Two Die in Fires

A toddler and a 73-year-old woman were killed and two others were critically injured in separate fires yesterday in Baltimore County, fire officials said.

Daja S. Bailey, 3, died shortly after firefighters rescued her about 2:45 a.m. from the upstairs of a burning Baltimore Highlands row house, said fire spokesman Mark Hubbard. Her mother, Schnell L. Smith, 20, also was rescued and was being treated for leg and chest burns at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where she was listed in critical condition.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, though it is believed to have been accidental.

Alice St. Clair, suffered cardiac arrest and later died after Baltimore County firefighters rescued her shortly before 2 a.m. from her burning ranch home in Woodlawn, Hubbard said. Her 45-year-old son, Robert, was taken to a hospital in critical condition.

Smoking materials are suspected as the cause of that fire.

Fire Displaces Three Landover Families

Three families were displaced from their Landover garden apartments yesterday after a fire that investigators said was sparked by the misuse of a scented candle. The one-alarm fire also caused $20,000 in damage to the apartments at 6803 Forest Rd. W., in the Kentland section off Route 202.

Capt. Chauncey Bowers of the Prince George's fire department said the fire began shortly after 11 a.m. in the bedroom of a ground-floor apartment, when an occupant was lighting the decorative candle and some bedding also caught on fire. Seven residents of apartments on the second and third floors had to be rescued by firefighters on ladders. The county's office of emergency preparedness, the American Red Cross and apartment management were sheltering those displaced.

Chicken Growers' Complaints Probed

The Department of Agriculture is investigating whether Perdue Farms Inc. cheated farmers who grow chickens for the company.

"We're looking at several issues," Dan VanAckeren, director of field operations for the USDA's Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, said yesterday.

Tita Cherrier, a spokeswoman for Perdue, based in Salisbury, Md., said she did not know about the investigation, but said she knows some growers under contract to raise broilers for Perdue are unhappy.

"I'm sure the USDA is compelled to investigate complaints," she said. "We do know that there are some growers, they've formed groups, who are dissatisfied and may have made complaints."

THE DISTRICT

Police Seek Person Who Shot Driver

D.C. police are looking for someone who shot a motorist on the Anacostia Freeway Friday night.

Police said the car went out of control after the man was shot in the chest near Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue NE..

The victim was taken to D.C. General Hospital, but his wounds are not considered life-threatening.

Out of School but Not Cooped Up

The D.C. Department of Recreation and Parks will provide supervised activities for District children during the winter school break at 73 neighborhood-based recreation centers from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow through Jan. 5.

Activities will include a citywide basketball tournament tomorrow through Thursday at Hart School Recreation Center, 601 Mississippi Ave. SE, beginning at 12:30 p.m. each day for youths ages 6 to 17. A tournament for children 12 and under and for teenagers 13 to 15 also will be held from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday at the Langdon Park Community Center, 2901 20th St. NE.

For more information, call the Department of Recreation and Parks at 202-673-7660.

Man Wounded in Drive-by Shooting

A man in his twenties was critically wounded last night in the 3500 block of 14th Street NW in what investigators said might have been a drive-by shooting.

The man, who was shot in the head, was taken to Howard University Hospital after the 6:15 p.m. attack, authorities said.

VIRGINIA

Incomes in State Continue to Grow

Incomes in Virginia increased faster than inflation for the third consecutive year, according to a new study from the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. The study shows that the median adjusted gross income for married couples in 1997 was $48,087--3.4 percent higher than in 1996 after adjusting for inflation.

The median income is the one for which half of all incomes are higher and the other half are lower. Fairfax County has the highest median income at $75,982. All of the top five localities are in Northern Virginia, and all are above $62,000.

Lee County had the lowest median income at $25,058.

The study's authors, economists John L. Knapp and Stephen C. Kulp, say the income gap between rich and poor Virginians continues to grow.

THE REGION

White House Pledges Money for Homeless

The White House is distributing nearly $1 billion to help the homeless, and Maryland, Virginia and the District will receive $19.4 million, $14.2 million and $8.7 million, respectively.

The money is being allocated to all states, plus the District, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. President Clinton announced the plan in his weekly radio speech yesterday, saying that the grants will go for housing and social services for the homeless.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "It was just like that 'night before Christmas' poem. We literally heard a clatter and we got up to see what was the matter. But then it wasn t Santa at all. -- Alan Korn on finding a Rudolph look-alike that climbed through the bathroom window of his Northwest Washington home early Christmas morning.