File photo: British author Jackie Collins poses for a photograph in New York in this June 10, 2008. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
Best-selling novelist Jackie Collins dies

Jackie Collins, the best-selling author of dozens of steamy novels who depicted the boardrooms and bedrooms of Hollywood’s power crowd, died Saturday of breast cancer at age 77, her family said.

The British-born Collins, younger sister of actress Joan Collins, died in Los Angeles, said her spokeswoman Melody Korenbrot.

“It is with tremendous sadness that we announce the death of our beautiful, dynamic and one of a kind mother, Jackie Collins, who died of breast cancer today,” the family said in a statement.

Collins sold more than 500 million copies of her books in 40 countries and has some 30 New York Times bestsellers, according to her own Web site.

Some of her most successful novels included “Hollywood Wives,” “Lucky” and “Lady Boss,” which were also adapted for television.

Thousands fled their homes in Lake County, Calif. on Saturday as a destructive blaze burned over 40,000 acres overnight. YouTube user mulletFive captured their dramatic escape from Anderson Springs, Calif inside their Dodge Sprinter. (YouTube/mulletFive)

— Reuters

1,000-plus homes destroyed in fires

The tally of homes destroyed by two massive Northern California wildfires topped 1,000 Saturday after authorities doing damage assessments in the Sierra Nevada foothills counted another 250 houses destroyed by flames still threatening thousands of more structures.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant said the count of 503 homes destroyed by the blaze burning for more than a week in Amador and Calaveras counties comes as firefighters make progress and damage inspection teams have access to affected areas.

Cal Fire had reported 252 homes destroyed as of Friday night by the fire that has charred 110 square miles.

“Some of the homes are tucked back in rural areas so it’s taken time to reach them,” Berlant said.

The fire, which killed at least two people, was 65 percent contained but still threatening another 6,400 structures.

A separate blaze in Lake County, about 170 miles northwest, destroyed at least 585 homes and burned hundreds of other structures. It has killed three people.

The Lake County fire tore through 62 square miles in 12 hours, causing thousands of residents to flee after it ignited a week ago. About 19,000 people were ordered to evacuate. The blaze had charred 116 square miles and was 48 percent contained Saturday.

— Associated Press

Slain girl’s father defends mother

The father of a 2-year-old girl identified almost three months after her remains were found in a trash bag that washed up on a Boston-area beach says he doesn’t believe the toddler’s mother caused her death.

Joseph Amoroso said in interviews with WHDH-TV and the Boston Herald that Rachelle Bond told him that her boyfriend, Michael McCarthy, fatally injured Bella Bond. Amoroso said he believes Rachelle Bond.

McCarthy, 35, is charged with murder, and Bond, 40, as an accessory after the fact. Neither could be reached for comment. They are to be arraigned Monday.

“I know with all my heart that Rachelle Bond would never, ever do anything to hurt anybody,” Amoroso told the station. “I was with the woman. This is the mother of my child.”

Amoroso told the Boston Herald that he and Bond connected in a tent at Occupy Boston and broke up after he discovered she had been arrested for prostitution.

A composite image of the unidentified girl, who was found June 25 by a woman walking a dog, was viewed by millions before authorities released her name Friday.They got their big break after Boston police received a tip and a search warrant was executed Thursday at Rachelle Bond’s apartment.

— Associated Press

Train ethanol cars derail in South Dakota: The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad said seven ethanol tanker cars derailed and at least one caught fire Saturday morning in southeastern South Dakota. BNSF spokesman Andy Williams said the 98-car train carrying ethanol derailed at about 6:15 a.m. between the towns of Scotland and Lesterville. He said there were no injuries and no nearby structures were threatened by the fire.

Driver hit by gunfire from Calif. sheriff’s helicopter: A driver who led authorities on a 100-mph freeway chase was struck by gunfire from a San Bernardino County sheriff’s helicopter before dying, the agency confirmed Saturday. However, the official cause of death will await an autopsy, a Sheriff’s Department statement said. Friday’s shooting was the seventh from a sheriff’s helicopter since the mid-1980s, when deputies began receiving regular training in using weapons from the air, spokeswoman Jodi Miller said. The last such incident occurred in 2001 in Apple Valley.

Man arrested in Utah triple homicide: Police in Utah arrested a 32-year-old man on Saturday for the fatal shooting of three people, including a ­2-month-old girl who shared his northwest Salt Lake City home. Alexander Tran, 32, was arrested Saturday after officers found him the night before inside the home with a gun. Police went to the home looking for relatives of an 8-year-old boy whose family failed to pick him up from school on Friday. After Tran was found inside the home Friday evening, officers discovered the bodies of 50-year-old Heike Poike, her 2-month-old granddaughter Lyrik Poike and another adult male inside the house. Bethune-Cookman killing suspect commits suicide: The suspect in a triple shooting that killed two Bethune-Cookman University students died after hanging himself in his Miami jail cell. Officials said York Zed Bodden was arrested Friday in North Miami after fatally shooting Diona McDonald and Timesha “Lisa” Carswell and critically injuring Micah Parham, also a B-CU student, on Thursday in a residence at Carolina Club Apartments in Daytona Beach.

— From news services