A 500 acre fire tore through the slopes above Ridgecrest on Tuesday afternoon. As of Wednesday at noon, the fire has been 50% contained.

The morning after: Photos from the Black Mountain/R­idgecrest Wildfire

Around 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31, a brush fire caused by unknown sources in the Ridgecrest area of Buncombe County erupted across the ridgeline. Spurred by gusty winds and dry conditions, the blaze soon spread across the mountains bordering Black Mountain, destroying several homes and forcing residents to flee to safety as state and federal Park Service officials, along with firefighters from across Western North Carolina, came in droves to battle the wildfire.

Up Against 100: The higher the index, the higher the cost of living. In green, each city’s actual average wage varies, but when adjusted by the cities’ cost of living, it begins to show just how far those dollars actually go. In Asheville and Charleston, the numbers on residents’ paychecks don’t go as far as they would in Savannah, Knoxville or Durham. Graph by Lance Wille

Asheville’s cost of living undermines workers’ pay

An article published last month in Governing magazine examined 191 cities around the country, comparing average hourly wages with each city’s cost of living. The analysis included big cities like New York, Miami and Los Angeles, as well as smaller cities like Asheville. Xpress sifted through the numbers to find out how Asheville compares with the rest of the country.

Southside Village Bill LaMée

EPA clarifies Southside Village status

The 74 homes in Southside Village are not part of the CTS of Asheville Superfund site next door, say several residents of the gated community off Mills Gap Road. In two recent letters, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency backs up that assessment, saying it “does not believe contamination associated with the CTS of Asheville Superfund Site poses unacceptable risk to residents of SSV.”

Breathe it in: Conservation groups like Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy have protected more than 100,000 acres of WNC land from development.

Conservati­on in WNC — where we’re going, where we’ve been

From the Get It! Guide: Long before the age of Internet lists and online travel magazines, people came to Asheville and Western North Carolina for the intrinsic natural beauty. In fact, the beauty of our environment is what many say makes this place so special. But are we protecting what we have? What initiatives are underway to help ensure that the region remains a respite and a haven for generations to come?

The county's industrial and pollution control financing board will consider the approval of issuing $4.2 million in industrial revenue bonds to pay for new machinery at Plasticard-Locktech International.

County’s industrial board to consider approval of industrial revenue bonds

The Buncombe County Industrial Facilities and Pollution Control Financing Authority will hold a meeting on Tuesday, March 31, to consider the approval of financing new machinery for the Plasticard-Locktech International facility at 605 Sweeten Creek Road. The meeting will be held at noon at 46 Valley Street in downtown Asheville.