The fire broke out around 9 pm off of FM 476, about 10 miles outside of Lytle, and it quickly spread to many homes and vehicles. With the closest water source miles away, as many as 20 fire trucks and around 40-50 firefighters from all over the Atascosa, Bexar, and Medina Counties were called to assist. Thanks to an aggressive attack by much needed help, they were able to keep the fire from reaching nearby propane tanks that would have resulted in far worse damages. In the meantime, residents in the area were evacuated to safety.
The fire actually lies within Rossville VFD’s district, but volunteers there were unavailable to respond, so Lytle Volunteer Fire Department came in to assist first, and soon issued an “all-call” for all surrounding departments to assist.
“We were fighting hard, but we ran out of water, and we needed more manpower,” said Fire Chief Matt Dear. “There are no fire hydrants out there, so we had to call in tons of trucks from all over the area, nearly every department in Atascosa County helped, half of the departments in Bexar County sent a truck and a few guys, as well as Devine and Natalia VFDs came to assist, along with Lackland Air Force base.”
“We set up drop tanks, and had so many trucks going back and forth carrying water that DPS shut down FM 476 all the way from FM 3175 to 476/2504 area,” Chief Dear said. “This is one of the largest fires we’ve responded to in a long time.”
“Volunteers are great, and they put in so many hours, but many of them are also working full time jobs to make a living, and so they can’t always respond to every fire. We do not have the same resources that Bexar County has. As our population grows, and San Antonio comes this way, we get more and more calls. When I first started we were running around 400 calls a year, and now we are running 1,200 calls a year, with mostly all volunteers.”
Almost all local departments depend on volunteers, but the growing number of fires, accidents, and Ems calls where they are needed, warrants attention.
“We have to look at how our emergency services can keep up with the growth. When people dial 9-1-1, they expect us to show up just like SA Fire Dept, but we are not like SA Fire Dept where they have all paid staff. We are mostly volunteers. Our population here in the Lytle area could nearly double in next 3-7 years if all of the new subdivisions fill out, and there will be a large gap in coverage if we do not increase our resources. We have to start looking at how we can guarantee fire service (as well as other emergency services). Fire station buildings and new fire trucks are great, what good does it do if we do not have enough firefighters to drive the trucks to the scene? We have to have the resources–the manpower–to respond to the growing number of calls.”
Long ago are the days that large ranches covered our area, and homes are being built closer and closer together, along with the population growth. When homes are closer together that also makes it harder to keep it from spreading to multiple homes, and that was the case with this fire as well.
Lytle Fire has applied for the SAFER grant that would cover the cost of 9 full time firefighters for a period of 3 years.
“That grant would allow us to have 4 full time paid firefighters in the station ready to go at all times,” Chief Dear said.
It is unknown at this time, if they will get the grant, but this recent fire is a perfect example of why it is needed. There were around 15 volunteers, who were able to respond to the fire, but more than 30 or so responders had to be called from Bexar County paid staff to assist, since we simply did not have the manpower here.
If you are looking for a good, meaningful way to serve the community, please consider joining your local fire department, whether you are in Devine, Natalia, LaCoste, Lytle, Bigfoot/Moore or Rossville. And if you see a volunteer firefighter, make sure to thank them for their service. Not many people realize the amount of hours and hard work these dedicated volunteers put in, and the more our community grows, the more additional manpower is needed.