Greece’s state-owned utility tries again to sell three coal-fired power plants

first_imgGreece’s state-owned utility tries again to sell three coal-fired power plants FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Reuters:Greece’s Public Power Corp (PPC) relaunched the sale of three coal-fired power plants on Friday with a March 19 deadline for expressions of interest, after a previous tender last month failed to attract any satisfactory bids.Former bidders, which include Mytilineos, GEK Terna, and Beijing Guohua Power Company, are entitled to express interest in addition to new ones, according to the tender document.PPC, which is 51 percent state-owned, is selling the plants in northern Greece and the southern Peloponnese region after a European Union court ruled it had abused its dominant position in the coal market.The sale is part of a list of reforms Athens needs to complete to qualify for the disbursement of further aid as part of its post-bailout surveillance by the European Commission.PPC has said it wants to conclude the sale by May and that it has been in touch with investors from the United States, Russia and China to attract new bidders.More: Greece’s Public Power relaunches coal-fired power plants salelast_img read more

Is Into the Wild’s Chris McCandless a Hero?

first_imgChris McCandless, also known by the pseudonym Alexander Supertramp, was an American hiker who sought an increasingly itinerant lifestyle as he grew up. He is the subject of Into the Wild, a nonfiction book by Jon Krakauer that was later made into a full-length feature film.We asked our readers to sound off on what they thought of the Chris McCandless and his adventure. These are their answers:“The dictionary’s definition of a hero is a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. Chris McCandless fits this definition perfectly. Ability he did not lack, and he had an abundance of courage with anything he tried. Chris was extraordinarily talented. He excelled in almost anything he attempted and let nothing stand in his way. During Chris’s year and a half adventure around the Western United States he showed all of the qualities of a hero. He dropped everything he owned to take away the barriers that society had subconsciously imposed on him to discover who the real Chris McCandless was. A bold and stubborn risk it was, but more importantly Chris took the risk—something many people would never dream of even attempting because they can’t predict the outcome. That’s why Chris is a hero, because he did something so many can’t. He set out on an adventure to enjoy what little time he had on this beautiful planet.”—Austin Peton, Blacksburg, Va.“I think from a literary sense John Krakauer has made Chris McCandless an example of a hero. As a human being, I feel it’s a shame that McCandless’ life ended at such a young age. I wish he would have made better decisions in many of his outdoor pursuits and the way he dealt with his family, but as a character I believe he is an essential lesson in social progression. Currently in America, we are losing sight of the simple things through working too many hours, while we live among homogenized suburban trappings and big-box hell. Many times I have wanted to step away from it all and release my free spirit within. Reality inevitably prevents this. But every time I go back and read “Into the Wild” I can’t help but feel inspired to at least make small changes in my life, appreciate my natural surroundings, and embrace the purest things around me, even if they aren’t always easy to see. If McCandless can make me see these things, then personally I have no choice but to call him a hero.”— Jim Barry, Raleigh, N.C.Many, many people waste away their lives being a slave to something (career, debt, etc.), not really ever being free from its grasp. Chris was just someone who did what we all should do: follow your heart.“While many of the underlying principles by which he tried to lead his life are indeed admirable, I don’t believe he can be called hero. Like many of us, he found that the societal trappings of everyday life in America made him long for a more simple existence. The reason however that many of the rest of us choose not to walk away is that we have a responsibility to those we love and those that love us. There’s a point in a person’s life where they must realize that they do not just live for themselves. Christopher McCandless was unfortunately too selfish to ever come to this realization. He instead chose to put his family through what I could only imagine must have been two years of hell without so much as a whisper of his whereabouts. Could you do such a thing to your loved ones? A hero, in my mind, must be selfless—someone who puts the lives of others above their own. Christopher McCandless does not fit that description.”— Jeremiah Leroy, Asheville, N.C.“It’s cool that he went out and explored the world and didn’t get caught up in society’s expectations. That’s great—I’m all for it. Many, many people waste away their lives being a slave to something (career, debt, etc.), not really ever being free from its grasp. Chris was just someone who did what we all should do: follow your heart. This doesn’t make him a hero, but it does make him pure and true.”— Jon Livenood, Knoxville, Tenn.“Chris McCandless was a troubled young man who tried to live off the land in the wilds of Alaska and starved to death. He went into the bush without bothering to master necessary skills. He didn’t have a map, wore jeans (a real sign of a newbie), and carried 10 lbs of rice but no crampons. McCandless had no respect for wilderness, too much arrogance, or maybe he just wasn’t thinking. He was not a kid or a boy; he was a 24 year old man. If Chris had a map, he would have seen that the safe way out, the best way to cross the river was only a half-mile down where there was a gauging station built by the U.S. Geological Survey. That’s how Jon Krakauer, the author of “Into the Wild,” and his companions reached the bus. Chris wanted to go into Alaska as terra incognito but there was a bus there and cabins a few miles away. How incognito could it be? In a documentary about the movie, Krackauer explained McCandless’ thinking: “If the whole world is mapped, then don’t look at the map.” That’s suicidal.”— Danny Bernstein, Asheville, N.C.last_img read more

Give Me a Lift

first_imgDownhill mountain biking grows up.Think downhill mountain biking at ski resorts is only for hucksters wearing full body armor and jacked up on Red Bull? Think again. Lift-assisted mountain biking is making a comeback, with more Southern resorts cranking their lifts during the warmer months for bikers. And this time around, they have beginners and families in mind with new flow trails that run top to bottom.“What we want is for a beginner to get on the same lift as Aaron Gwyn, ride a separate trail, then meet back up at the bottom of the hill,” says Talia Freeman, spokesperson for Beech Mountain Resort, which hosted the National Downhill Championships this year on its new bike trail system designed for experts. Next summer, they’ll run the lifts for the general public and unveil a new beginner-friendly system. It’s a pattern that’s playing out across the country as resorts rethink their mountain bike programs, looking to offer more than just big hits and gnarly terrain.“You have to crawl before you can walk. People need to be able to progress through downhill biking at resorts, and until recently, they haven’t had a lot of opportunity to do that,” says Geoff Allen, owner of Bergrad Trails, the company building a new beginner trail at Wisp Resort in Maryland. “There’s typically a steep learning curve in downhill biking. You show up at a resort and see bikers in full-faced helmets and pads. It’s intimidating. But these new trails will be different.”Here’s a look at three lift-served downhill trails in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic with beginners in mind.Rock and Roll, Seven Springs Resort, Pa.This double-track drops gently through open glades and meadows offering countless banked turns and rollers that the whole family can tackle. The occasional rock garden is thrown in to keep things interesting. Beginners will enjoy a mellow cruise, but more advanced riders will be able to dig in and enjoy the flow at higher speeds. On this trail, you’re pedaling to build speed, not because you have to.Resort Overview: Seven Springs runs one lift from Spring through Fall servicing nine downhill trails. Rock and Roll is on one end of the spectrum, but there are 20-foot jumps on the other end for those looking to test gravity. After styling Rock and Roll, step up to the mountain’s signature trail, 007, an intermediate piece of singletrack with moderate tabletops and banked turns. Lifts run through October 28 on weekends.  ($37 lift ticket; Pine, Snowshoe Mountain, W.Va. This manicured beginner trail runs from top to bottom in Snowshoe’s Basin Area, serviced by the Ball Hooter lift. Optional wooden drops kick off the entrance of the trail, with more optional jumps built into the ride throughout. You’ll also hit some fun, but wide wood bridges as you drop more than 1,000 feet of elevation.Resort Overview: The largest and most well-regarded downhill system in our region, Snowshoe maintains 40 trails covering 1,500 vertical feet of drop, all serviced by two high speed quads. The mountain has plenty of manmade structures, but Snowshoe is expanding its beginner trail portfolio this summer with the help of Gravity Logic, the trail masterminds behind Whistler’s uber successful bike park. They’ve also begun offering a Family Introductory Clinic, five hours of downhill skills and guided trail riding ($99). Snowshoe’s bike season runs through October 7, Fridays through Sundays ($39 lift ticket;, Wisp Resort, Md.  Wisp has always had a single beginner trail that basically followed a green ski slope down the mountain, but this summer, they’ve reinvented their easy terrain with a purpose built flow trail that runs top to bottom with a beginner-friendly grade and small features like berms, rollers, and wide wooden bridges. It’s a super-flowy, super-smooth piece of singletrack designed to give mothers, fathers, and kids the downhill experience without the downhill risk.Resort Overview: Wisp is known for its rock gardens and natural rock drops. Rodeo/Rocket is a double black with big, burly rock gardens on steep terrain, but there are a few wooden ramps and bridges thrown in for good measure. Expert terrain abounds, but there’s also plenty for intermediate riders. Wisp also offers an Intro to Downhill clinic that focuses on how to create that symbiotic relationship between bike and body that’s key to downhill success ($119). One high-speed lift services 13 downhill trails. Lifts run seven days a week until mid-September, then on weekends through October. ($35 lift ticket; Ahead: Beech Mountain, N.C.No resort in the South is putting more energy into their downhill mountain bike trail system than Beech Mountain. The resort started building new downhill trails in 2009 and has been beefing up their portfolio of dirt ever since winning the bid to host the 2012 and 2013 USA Cycling Mountain Bike Gravity National Championships. The resort’s terrain is only open for races this year (the last race is Sept. 14-15), but next year, look for the lifts to run during weekends, giving bikers access to the downhill terrain, including new beginner trails being built now. The lifts will also give you quicker access to several miles of cross country terrain at Emerald Outback.last_img read more

Red Wing Roots Festival Interview: Trent Wagler of the Steel Wheels

first_imgNatural Chimneys Park, in the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, will be drawing in Americana music fans from around our region – and beyond – this weekend.  The Steel Wheels – long time friends of Blue Ridge Outdoors – are hosting the inaugural Red Wing Roots Music Festival and it promises to be a big time.  Boasting a diverse line up – Del McCoury Band, Gregory Alan Isakov, Larry Keel, Yarn, Claire Lynch, and many more – and a picturesque setting, this festival is sure to be one of those can’t miss experiences.  I recently caught up with Trent Wagler, of The Steel Wheels, to chat about this labor of roots music love.BRO – What was the inspiration behind throwing the festival?TW – Playing festivals, seeing the behind the scenes action, having those magical experiences while performing, and seeing other artists perform, on stage.  We have played some festivals that have been really inspiring to us.  Early on, we got to play Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, a festival with such breadth.  The first year we played we got to see Del McCoury perform and then, later that night, we got to see Dr. Dog playing a different stage.  There is another great festival in Winfield, Kansas, called Walnut Valley.  It’s huge, but it has this incredible hospitable feeling.  We have had so many great experiences at festivals – seeing Doc Watson at MerleFest, playing in front of Claire Lynch and David Grisman, meeting Mountain Heart and hanging out with people backstage.  We just asked ourselves, “Why can’t we do this right here in the Shenandoah Valley, right where we are from and where we spent so much time playing music in our early years?”  We wanted to bring that experience home.  This area – the Harrisonburg/Staunton part of the valley – doesn’t really have a festival doing what we are doing.  So we got the idea brewing and here we are.BRO – You have an ambitious line up for a first year festival.  Go big or go home?TW – Well, we don’t want to go home!  We wanted to make a big impact, but there was definitely trepidation going into it, because the infrastructure and cost of bigger names puts it into a completely different ballgame.  But we decided that we didn’t want to get lost in the mix of smaller festivals that you can find any weekend of the summer.  We wanted to make our mark and rival the line ups of the bigger festivals.  We wanted a line up with that kind of stature.  We’ve got some great headliners, like Del McCoury, who is revered in so many ways.  But this festival is going to be so much more than that.  I got to do a radio program a couple weeks ago where I was a guest deejay and got to pick a couple of hours of music from our line up.  It got me so excited.  I can’t wait to be out on the lawn and hear the notes that Preservation Hall Jazz Band or John Jorgenson Quintet are playing.  We have so many great songwriters – Sarah Siskind, Jonathan Byrd, Pokey Lafarge.  I can’t say enough about how our production team was able to put together this line up.  Nobody can believe I am not biased about this, but I am more excited about this line up than any other festival line up this summer.BRO – Tell me about the festival site.TW – We have this beautiful park, Natural Chimneys, that many years ago hosted fantastic artists like Hank Williams and Patsy Cline.  It has this history of hosting musical performances, but it has been underutilized in that area recently.  It is a beautiful area and a great spot.  It has a campground with great facilities, yet it is still not over sanitized.  You can be at the festival and still truly be in the outdoors.BRO – I know you guys are big cyclers and you are in this wonderful park.  Have any outdoors stuff planned?TW – We are doing two organized road rides on Saturday morning that people can still sign up for.  They are early, so you can ride and not miss any of the music.  One of the rides is to the top of Reddish Knob.  It is a difficult ride, but it is magical, just a beautiful spot, right on the West Virginia border, and I’ve been told you can see four states from there.  A couple of The Steel Wheels will be on that ride and a couple of us will be on the other ride.  There is also fishing at Todd Lake, right next door, and there are hiking and mountain bike trails all over the place.BRO – Any particular set you are excited to see?TW – I downloaded a bunch of music, when we first got started, from our performers whose music I didn’t have.  Of everyone, Gregory Alan Isakov’s stuff has totally intoxicated me.  I have listened to it non-stop this summer.  I can’t wait to see him live and sing along with his songs.  Something else really exciting is a tribute set we are going to be playing on Sunday.  This is something that we want to become one of those important little things that people come to expect of our festival, one of those traditions that help us define the culture of our festival.   We have chosen a musician to whom we will pay tribute – and we are keeping it a secret – and our friends will come up and join us and play this musician’s songs.  I hope it becomes one of those things that you can only see at this festival.  When there is a set like this, when there is a lot of collaboration going on, it is a once and a lifetime experience and makes a music festival particularly special.———————————————————–There is no doubt that The Steel Wheels are on to something special with this festival, and you have the chance to check it out.  Take a shot at the trivia question below and email your answer to  A winner of two weekend passes to the Red Wing Roots Music Festival will be chosen from all of the correct answers received by 9 A.M. tomorrow (Thursday) morning!!For more info on tickets, the line up, camping, vendors, and much more, check out – What Red Wing Roots performer, mandolin maestro, and founding member of Newgrass Revival, can often be seen performing in a jersey of his beloved St. Louis Cardinals?last_img read more

Trauma Tuesday: Mountain Bike Fails Edition

first_imgOoof, mountain biking. Has there ever been a crueler mistress?The speed is alluring, the downhill intoxicating, the air invigorating, the crashes shoulder-separating, the diggers spine-compress-orating. This compilation has something for everyone, from low-speed, clipped in tumbles, to 30-foot airs that go terribly, horribly wrong. I can see how skiers and snowboarders can pop up from a wreck since they are usually in snow, but it is beyond me how some of these riders can get back up, or even survive for that matter, after taking shots from the dirt, their bike, or any other inanimate, unmoving object they plow themselves into. Regardless, it’s a good thing someone is around to enjoy these mountain bike fails.last_img read more

The Harrisonburg Road Trip: Stars, Bikes, and Beer

first_imgYour guide to the Harrisonburg Road Trip.BRING: Camping gear, mountain bike, designated driverHIGHLIGHT: Peeping the SupermoonSOUVENIR: Bottle of Royal Pippin cider, the champagne of apple ciders ($16; OneStart your road trip on a high note, 25 miles west of Harrisonburg on the West Virginia/Virginia border with a 2.9-mile hike to High Knob Lookout Tower, arguably the best view in the George Washington National Forest. From the Brandywine Lake Recreation Area off US 33, climb more than 2,000 feet on the High Knob Trail to the top of Shenandoah Mountain where the stone and timber tower offers 360-degree views to Harrisonburg to the east and deep into West Virginia to the west. Spend the night at the Brandywine Lake Recreation Area, which comes complete with a cold lake and hot showers (editor’s note: pack enough food/beverages for the night—this is the middle of nowhere).Day TwoBook it into Harrisonburg where a breakfast quesadilla ($6, stuffed with eggs, tomatoes, and tater tots!) awaits at the Artful Dodger, a coffeehouse/cocktail lounge on the court square in downtown. The Dodger gets many of their ingredients from the Harrisonburg Farmer’s Market and rotates local artists on the walls. After breakfast settles, head to Massanutten Resort’s Western Slope, where 15 miles of singletrack was built on the side of Massanutten Four Seasons Resort by the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition. If you’re not already a member of the SVBC, access to the Western Slope is an excellent reason to join ($50, plan ahead so SVBC can mail your trail pass to you before your trip).Ride the five-mile Pink Loop for the best on the mountain, including 2K Trail, one of the newest trails on the mountain that packs big rock outcroppings, sweeping berms, technical gnar, sweeping berms, pump-track style rollers, and did we mention the sweeping berms?Head to Skyline Drive and cruise north through Shenandoah National Park, bagging roadside views at every turn. Your goal is Big Meadows Campground ($20 a night), a massively popular campground in the middle of the park, where hot grub at Big Meadows Lodge is a short walk away. Bring your telescope—the high elevation of the grassy meadow coupled with the park’s lack of artificial light, make Big Meadow one of the best stargazing spots in Virginia.Look for the biggest full moon of the year, dubbed the “supermoon,” on June 23 and the annual Perseid Meteor Shower, when you can see up to 90 meteors per hour, on August 12.Day ThreePack up camp and go south on Skyline Drive to the Bearfence Mountain Trail between mile 56 and 57. Knock out the 1.2-mile loop to the top of Bearfence Mountain, which features the best rock scramble inside the park that isn’t Old Rag. The reward for your half-mile of hand-over-hand “hiking” is a 360-degree view from the summit. Head back to your car via the A.T. and kiss Shenandoah goodbye as you head toward Crozet, a small farming community that has become ground zero for Virginia’s local booze movement.“Rock Paper Scissors” to figure out who’s going to drive the car for your custom booze tour, a 30-mile loop that includes two breweries, a cider house, and a winery. Start in Crozet at Starr Hill Brewery, one of Virginia’s oldest beer-makers, for a six-beer tasting ($5) of the tasting room’s rotating taps (we like the Festie amber lager). Head to King Family Vineyards where you’ll get schooled on the nuances of Virginia wines during a tasting ($7). If you’re lucky, you can catch a polo match (Sundays) at the Roseland Polo Field directly behind the winery. Albemarle Ciderworks makes hard cider using heritage apples. The tasting room is also a great place to catch local bluegrass on weekends. Finish with dinner at Blue Mountain Brewery and Restaurant. Get the Nitro Chili Dog ($9), with a bun baked from local Goodwin Creek Farm and chili made with Blue Mountain’s Nitro Ale. Wash it down with a couple of Blue Mountain’s flagship Full Nelson, a pale ale that uses the brewery’s home-grown hops.Want more adventure? Check out our full list of road trip guides!last_img read more

Weekend Picks: Summersville Lake Lighthouse Festival

first_imgTake a trip to Mount Nebo, West Virginia, this weekend, Saturday, August 23, for the Summersville Lake Lighthouse Festival. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the lake’s lighthouse grounds. Cabella’s will be there all day teaching fishing techniques; and Tamarack Artisans and craftspeople from around the state will be there as well. You’ll also get to enjoy live Appalachian music, food, raffles, classic car show, and more!summersville-lakeFrom the top of the lighthouse you’ll see more than 45 sail boats compete in the Fourth Annual Mountain Mama Hospice Regatta.Come enjoy something for the whole family, win some prizes, and enjoy a day at Summersville Lake.last_img read more

Clips of the Week: Bell Gives Back to the Mountain Biking Community

first_imgBell Helmets is ponying up $100,000 to fund a mountain biking trail project. Here on the East Coast, three trail building projects—one at Gorges State Park in North Carolina, one in Anniston, Alabama, and one in Knoxville, Tennessee—are vying for the money, and the winner will be chosen by you the voter! Voting begins on May 11, and the grant will be awarded on May 25. Check out the video introductions of each project below, then get to clickin’!Situated in the heart of Knoxville, this bike park is being constructed with a range of trails that will appeal to a variety of riders. The highlight will be the proposed gravity trail that will feature rock gardens, drops, and constructed features in a highly visible area that will draw attention to this regionally unique trail.Rock, rock, and more rock will rattle and test the skill of any gravity rider who descends the Timber Trail. Already flush with a range of singletrack, Coldwater Mountain will be augmented by this gnarly, techy trail that will feature car-sized boulders, steep rollovers, and drops.A stronghold of East Coast riding, Brevard, NC, has the terrain to lay down a steep, rocky trail peppered with jumps and drops. The scenic waterfalls and deciduous forest will add to the experience of any visitor and make for a photogenic ride.last_img read more

My First Obstacle Course Race

first_imgOn Saturday May 7 in Atlanta, Georgia I ran my first and (probably) last obstacle course race: a Tough Mudder.Initially, I was gung-ho. I’d signed up four months in advance at 2 A.M. on a snow-strewn January night in Staunton, Virginia. Slumped over my laptop, I studied event photos—these people looked fit, confident, determined to seize life by the throat and bark demands. Muttering something about middle-age, I plugged in my credit-card info.Soon enough, I realized my reasons for wanting to do this thing were senseless. Mostly it was the Finisher’s t-shirt. I fantasized about being saluted while jogging, pumped for details in café lines, surrounded by half-a-dozen wildly attractive coeds in the community college adjunct lounge. This was the ticket to a New Life, I thought.I’d spent 11 weeks avoiding any/all training. Where had the time gone? What had I done with it? Work. A breakup. Split-parenting. Christmas for two small children. Drinking. The routine of middle-age.Desperate for revenge, I did what any good journalist would do—phoned TMI’s spin-wizard and laid on the screws.“Is obstacle course racing just another weird fad that, having peaked, will soon be forgotten?” I asked.“Our participant numbers have remained consistent each year and are presently growing,” said Tough Mudder’s communications manager, Carol Gotshall. “In fact, four of 2016’s first five event-weekends have [seen an increase] in participant numbers.”“But why? Why would anyone do this to themselves? It’s not even a race. No one wins. In fact, people are paying to lose.”“Mudders have made it exceedingly clear they’re not looking for a typical timed race,” she replied. “Obstacle course racing taps into something much larger and deeper: a core set of universal values—to push your boundaries and overcome obstacles, to forge real connections and find a sense of community… Demand remains strong because our [events] tap into deep, innate human needs. People’s desire to connect and push themselves will never go away.”Checking into the Atlanta Airport Marriott, I gazed around the lobby. The place was overrun by Mudders—men and women decked out in distinctly athletic garb, much of it TM-branded. There were thickly bearded septuagenarians in spectacles with figures that would set Michelangelo salivating. College girls with dark paint under their eyes, looking like mutant pro-volleyball players. Grey-haired ladies, the chiseling of their thighs, biceps and abs alarmingly visible through hot-pink spandex.Fleeing to the bar, I took a seat alongside a 20-something African-American male sporting what looked to be a TM basketball uniform (head/wrist bands included). His shoulders read: “High-Gear Hopkins.” I snickered. He sized me up, squinting at my loafers and jeans, my tucked-in polo, its protruding belly-region. I buttoned my sport-coat. Overcome by laughter, Hopkins got me a beer. Three rounds later, I noticed the numbers tattooed along his calves.“GPS coordinates for all my events,” said High-Gear, shrugging. “Used to be 300 pounds. Barely finished my first race. Four years later, I’m doing three a year… Changed my life. I live for this shit, man. Live for it.”Eventually, he asked about me. “I am a jellyfish,” I said. “The king of all jellyfish.”Lucky for me, a handful of booze-flushed hyper-fit people swarmed High-Gear and, leaving him to deal with their high-fives and hugs—not to mention our tab—I made an exit.Next day I showed up at the ‘race’ in full-body spandex. Across my suit’s neon-yellow shoulders I’d scrawled, in permanent marker: “King Jellyfish.” Here, despite a 12-mile roadmap of obstacles with names like Shawshank, Birth Canal, Underwater Tunnels, Balls to the Wall and Beached Whale, people looked normal. There were teams of plump housewives supporting their overweight daughters. Beer-bellied lawyers. Scraggly teenagers. People looking like High-Gear pre-transformation. My confidence soared.And yet, approaching the course’s final obstacle I knew I was going to die. My head was spinning; my breath came in painful gasps; every muscle in my body screamed: QUIT!But no. Like a warped dream I watched myself hitting the dirt, belly-crawling like a man pursued by starving cannibalistic Nazis under 90 feet of tiny dangling wires charged with up to 10k volts of electricity. About midway, some fool came bull-rushing by and—ZAP!—crashed to the ground, knocked out cold.Then I was up, staggering like a whipped dog toward the finish line. Crossing the threshold, I fell to my knees. Weeping, gasping for air, I threatened my fists toward the sky. Then an officious young woman was standing over me, draping a medal over my neck.High Gear Hopkins was right. My life had changed. It was a small feat perhaps, but I had found a strength I never knew I had— a strength I would need to navigate the obstacles of my everyday life.Related Content:last_img read more

The Fire Next Time: Will Appalachia See More Arson in 2017?

first_imgTwo Tennessee teenagers—ages 15 and 17—were out hiking the Chimney Tops Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park last November. Then, for whatever reason – boredom, teenage stupidity, maybe outright malice – they decided to throw lit matches on the ground, during one of the longest droughts the Appalachian region has seen in recent memory.The result was a wildfire that raged through the park and the nearby towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, killing 14 people, injuring about 150 others, and damaging or destroying more than 2,400 properties.Although the so-called Gatlinburg Fire was unusually large and destructive, it was far from the only conflagration that kept emergency personnel busy last fall. The entire Southeast experienced its worst fire season in years, and 38 of the 39 major wildfires were intentionally set.“Our fall fire season was historic by any measure,” says Tim Phelps, a spokesman for the Tennessee Division of Forestry. “We had a rash of fires taking place on a daily basis.” His agency responded to 1,311 fires of various sizes last year that collectively burned 83,500 acres. Although 570 of those fires were caused by proven or suspected arson, only 10 arrests have been made. That’s because forest fires, by their nature, start in remote areas and often consume any available evidence. The low number of arson arrests “gives you an idea of just how hard it is to prosecute something like this,” Phelps says.Most of the suspects who pled guilty in Tennessee fit the standard arsonist profile: white males in their 20s who lived near the areas where the fires were set. “Typically, they said they just wanted the attention or the excitement of the response, or it might be revenge against a neighbor or girlfriend,” Phelps says. Techniques vary; perpetrators sometimes use propellant, but given last year’s bone-dry conditions, often a couple of matches was all it took. “It’s tough for a rational mind to comprehend what these folks are thinking, but it’s unfortunate that we have people who do this,” Phelps says.It’s part of a nationwide trend that spans decades: more forest fires, burning hotter and for longer periods. According to Forest Service Spokesperson Jennifer Jones, wildfires have burned an average of 7.3 million acres of land (state, federal, and private) over the past 10 years, compared to 2.7 million acres annually from 1983-1992. The Southeast leads the nation in the number of wildfires, averaging 45,000 per year and climbing. Already in 2017, a major wildfire in Georgia’s Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge has burned for two months and may eventually scorch almost half of the entire 438,000-acre refuge.Very large fires of more than 100,000 acres are becoming more common in the Southeast, including the Big Turnaround Complex in Georgia in 2007 (386,722 acres); the Bugaboo Scrub fire in Georgia (160,727 acres) and Florida in 2007 (108,574 acres); and the Honey Prairie fire in Georgia in 2011 (309,200 acres). It’s probably not a coincidence that these areas have also experienced longer overall fire seasons over the last 35 years.Fire has always been part of the natural landscape, but more people are living closer to urban-wildland interfaces. With more people living in fire-prone areas, firefighters must protect even more lives and structures than ever before. And in forests across Appalachia, fire has been suppressed for many decades, causing even more fuel to build up.And then there’s the giant melting iceberg in the room: climate change. Our warming atmosphere is producing longer droughts, which means more frequent and intense fires. “One of the predictions of climate change models is more extreme and unpredictable weather patterns,” says Hugh Irwin, program director for The Wilderness Society. “The size and severity of the fires are a direct result of drought last year in the Southern Appalachians, and the severe drought is consistent with weather patterns expected with climate change. Severity, intensity, and variability seem to be the new norm.”According to Jones, the Forest Service sees the solution as a three-legged stool. The first leg involves maintaining good response capabilities, which is why the agency is striving to increase its budget for fire fighters, aircraft, and equipment. Leg two is helping communities become more fire-adapted by teaching homeowners how to use fire-resistant materials and create buffer zones around their homes. Finally, the Forest Service plans to use prescribed burns to reduce fuel loads and make landscapes more resilient to fire.“Fire is part of the forest,” says Irwin. “We have to learn to coexist with it.”last_img read more