IN THE BEGINNING: Reputed to be the third oldest river in the world, the French Broad has gone from a polluted industrial dumping ground to a key cog in Western North Carolina’s outdoor and tourism industries. This renaissance is a result of government, nonprofit, and individual efforts to improve water quality throughout the watershed. Photo by Mike Belleme; courtesy of Transylvania Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Development Authority

Communitie­s along Upper French Broad work to restore water quality

In this two-part series, Xpress invites you on a guided a trip down the river as we examine the work of various communities to write the next chapter in the French Broad’s history, beginning with Transylvania and Henderson counties.

WHO YOU GONNA CALL: Leicester Fire Department medical and fire service, protecting people in parts of three counties around the clock. Chief Chris Brown, in white, commands the growing department and works with a board of directors to manage the finances and policies that govern the part paid, part volunteer department. Photo by Cindy Kunst

How local fire department­s keep residents safe in changing times

As population grows in WNC’s once-rural areas, the model of volunteer-based fire and rescue services is giving way to bigger budgets, more training and significant numbers of paid staff. How are the departments keeping up with the changes, and should they be required to conform to the same requirements for transparency and public oversight as other organizations funded by property taxes?

LIKE A ROCK: Skyland Fire & Rescue was one of the first Buncombe County volunteer departments to hire firefighters and medical personnel, but they still are governed by the same rules as small volunteer departments. Photo by Able Allen

Chief Presley retires from Skyland FD amid controvers­y over families in fire service

Chief Dennis Presley will retire from the Skyland Fire and Rescue Department as of Aug. 20. His announcement came on Aug. 2, the morning after Weston Hall of Black Mountain spoke during the public comment period at the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meeting. Hall said that nepotism was creating a hostile work environment at nonprofit fire service departments. He pointed out that Presley’s wife, son, daughter and son-in-law all hold paid positions with the Skyland department.