The Beat: Biltmore Avenue blaze claims firefighter’s life

A tragic fire: A blaze in Mission Hospitals’ building on 445 Biltmore injured almost a dozen firefighters and took the life of Capt. Jeff Bowen. photo by Arnie Packerson

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Asheville firefighter dies in Biltmore Avenue blaze

Capt. Jeff Bowen, a 13-year Asheville Fire Department veteran, died of cardiac arrest after succumbing to smoke and intense heat while responding to a four-alarm blaze at 445 Biltmore Ave. July 28. Firefighter Jay Bettencourt was taken to an Augusta, Ga., hospital but was released. Several other firefighters were also injured, but no civilians were hurt.

According to information released at a press conference that evening, the building doesn’t have a sprinkler system and isn’t required to. The cause of the fire is still being investigated, but early reports suggest an electrical problem. Bettencourt and Bowen were working as a team, searching for people in the building, when Bowen called out “mayday” over the radio.

The 37-year-old Bowen leaves behind a wife and three children.

The last time an Asheville firefighter died in the line of duty was 1982.

A Facebook page “in loving memory” of Bowen has been created at, and the Mission Health System is matching up to $10,000 in donations made to the Fallen Firefighters Fund (mail donations to Mission Foundation, 980 Hendersonville Road, Suite C, Asheville NC 28803, or go online to
— Margaret Williams

Trees felled for health, not security reasons

Jackie Bryson said something just felt empty when she looked outside her door July 27 and realized several trees in the complex had been cut down.

“I’ve been in this particular apartment for 21 years, and I watched them trees grow,” said Bryson, who is president of the Hillcrest Apartments Resident Council. “I didn’t know I cared about those trees until they weren’t there anymore.”

Residents were given short notice about the tree removal, leading some to suspect it aimed to create a clearer sightline for recently installed security cameras. But Asheville Housing Authority Director Gene Bell said that wasn’t the case. In fact, a Bradford pear in front of Bryson’s apartment that survived had been marked for removal by mistake.

“One boy was holding onto the tree, saying, ‘Don’t cut it down,’” noted Bryson. “Fortunately, Mr. Bell stopped them.”
— Caitlin Byrd

Ashevile’s officially in the 10th Congressional District

The first Republican-controlled General Assembly in 140 years ratified a controversial redistricting plan July 28 that split Asheville and Buncombe County in ways that are likely to benefit GOP candidates.

The law shifts almost all of Asheville’s reliably Democratic voters from the 11th Congressional District, currently represented by Democrat Heath Shuler, to the conservative 10th, presently the domain of Republican Patrick McHenry.

A bipartisan host of critics charged that it was a blatantly political move that ignores traditional geographic, cultural and economic boundaries. Republican Rep. Tim Moffitt of Buncombe County, a member of the House Redistricting Committee, proposed an amendment July 27 to return Asheville to the 11th, but he was the only Republican member of that body who supported the measure, which failed 17-23. Buncombe Democratic Rep. Susan Fisher later introduced a similar amendment on House floor; it failed 65-51.
— Jake Frankel

APD releases suspect descriptions in West Asheville home invasions

On July 28, the Asheville Police Department released details, including descriptions of the suspects, in six recent home invasions in West Asheville and Montford. The incidents may be related. Public speculation and concerns about home invasions in the area have increased in recent days. Some residents formed West Asheville Watch, a Facebook page for sharing information about individual crimes, safety tips and more (
— David Forbes

Buncombe County officials set to condemn CTS building

In response to requests by neighbors, Buncombe County is moving to demolish the contaminated former CTS of Asheville plant on Mills Gap Road. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved the move. On July 26, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners instructed the county manager to negotiate with a private demolition company to take the structure down, board Chair David Gantt reports.

"This is a pretty big move for us. [Previously], the EPA felt they would rather do testing with the roof [intact]," he explains.  "But the roof and the whole thing was such a mess that we think we need to get it done now.”
Jake Frankel and Susan Andrew

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One thought on “The Beat: Biltmore Avenue blaze claims firefighter’s life

  1. Becky

    Why WERE the trees cut down? That seems sad. Blocked in by highways, so much asphalt and pavement. Are they going to replace them? Doesn’t sound like they involve the residents much.

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