Firemen save five homes in 30-acre brush fire

An elderly man surveys damage left from a fire that nearly destroyed his home.

Volunteers from Devine and Natalia VFDs rushed to the aide of an elderly gentleman’s call for help when he learned the grass on the side of the road was on fire and headed through his field and towards his homes. Overall at least five homes were saved from the fire which grew to over 30 acres on FM 463 and CR 672 behind the old Rancho Grande Store in the Chacon Lake area. “Twenty acres of it is in coastal and about 10 in brush”, said Gilbert Rodriguez, Natalia VFD Asst. Chief, at the scene while he was waiting on his brush truck to be refilled with water from one of the large engine trucks that carry a lot of water. The fire came within a few feet of three sides of one of Perez’ homes.
“One of my neighbors spotted the fire on their way to town and stopped by to tell me my field was on fire. It had already gotten to the tank (dry stock tank). I bet someone threw a cigarette out the window and the wind must have caught it just right and landed in the dry grass on the side of the dirt road,” said Joe Perez from his powered wheelchair at the scene, a retired United States Army Paratrooper. “I called for the fire department and they were here quickly, lots of them!” Fortunate for Mr. Perez it was a Monday night around 6:40 pm, the time both Devine and Natalia fire usually start gathering at the fire houses for Monday night training and/or business meetings.
Perez was traveling around the fields in his four wheel powered wheelchair checking on the fences and his cows and other livestock. “I got these injuries in the Army. I was a paratrooper. It’s a good thing the fire was today and not tomorrow because I would have been gone to a doctor appointment at the VA Hospital.” Natalia fireman Byrd assured him that the different departments were watching and wouldn’t let any cattle get out.
Natalia firemen used their big fire engine “Tender 289” to refill all of the Devine brush trucks and Natalia brush trucks. Each time they ran out of water they would get back in line for another tank full. It also gave the fireman a chance to grab a bottle of water and refuel themselves as well, as they tried to stay hydrated in the 10 degree heat in those heavy coats and pants.
Overall Natalia had four trucks with nine firemen (Greg Cargile, Mable Byrd, Bryan Graham, Corey Bradley, Ronnie Vasquez, Gilbert Rodriguez, Derek Caddell, Chuck Brown and Don Hilton), joined by Devine who brought five more trucks with 14 firemen (Daniel Ehlinger, Jessica Meeks, Justine Hruzek, Michael Walker, Byron Hruzek, Alex Rodriguez, Clifford Cantrell, Austin Ehlinger, Emmalee Franz, Christian Jones, Charles Meeks, Robert Scott, Nicholas Hughan and Jason Johnson) as mutual aide as requested by Natalia VFD.
Burn Ban Reminder – Medina County is under a burn ban. Please be cautious and not toss out cigarettes on the roadside. It took the firemen several hours to get it all contained and all the hot spots worked back over. They even had to chainsaw some trees that had become a danger.
By Kathleen Calame