MEDINA COUNTY, Texas – Crews continue to work to contain the wildfire in Medina County that has been burning for days. With a red flag warning on Tuesday, firefighters will have to ramp up their efforts to contain the remaining 30%.
“Not that we’re in a 100 percent good place, but we’re we’re not we’re not completely out of control at this point,” said Medina County ESD 1 Fire Chief Clint Cooke.
Cooke said they are working with residents but have a plan in place in case fire conditions change.
“We’re working with residents that are specifically affected in the high mountain range that we’re going to bring them in with an I.D. so that all the residents are still secured with the other evacuations,” he said. “But they’re going to be escorted in so that if there is an unexpected shift or change, we can get them out of there.”
WATCH: Texas Forest Service working to contain Medina County wildfire in steeper terrain
Cooke said crews worked to save properties threatened by the fire.
“That was our primary goal. After we knew that we had the residents evacuated from the area, it became structure protection, and they’re going to see where and in certain areas the fire burned all the way up to their house,” he said.
Cooke said a homeowner had been reunited with their dog. He also said livestock animals were fed and taken care of while the homeowners were away.
About 40 firefighters joined in the efforts to combat the fire. The state of Texas assisted with the Forest Service out of Fredericksburg and aircraft.
Medina County Judge Chris Schuchart said many residents were moved to tears after witnessing the destruction caused by the fire.
“There were tears in their eyes just, and these are residents that didn’t lose their houses. So, you know, their electricity has been turned off, so they can go back anyway. But we did help them get back in yesterday and those that wanted to get stuff out,” Schuchart said.
He said the wildfire has brought the community closer, and some helped out however they could.
“I think it’s great the way everybody in this community came together, not just the firefighters and the county personnel but individuals,” Schuchart said.
Ira Rubio’s family evacuated the High Mountain Ranch subdivision twice.
They left Friday night after Rubio saw smoke during his drive in to work for a night shift, and he says the sheriff’s office started announcing an evacuation.
They were back at home by Saturday morning, but not for long.
“Went to sleep. At 11 o’clock, phone’s ringing off the hook, and next thing you know, they say, ‘Hey, we got to go again!’ I was like, ‘What?’” Rubio recalled. “Went outside and literally, like, a black smoke was overcoming into my house. Ash is hitting my face, like, ‘OK, this is worse.’ It was a lot bigger. Wind gust was going.”
While Rubio’s family had a camper trailer in which they could wait out the evacuation, not everyone had that option.
In Helotes, a church spokesman estimated 10 to 15 people were staying at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, which is being used as a shelter for evacuees.
Mary Elaine Rodriguez was one of them, along with her husband and seven dogs – six of which were puppies.
When the couple evacuated their High Mountain Ranch home on Saturday, they piled eight puppies into the backseat of Rodriguez’s convertible and the adult dog into the front seat of her husband’s truck.
Along the way, they were able to get some donated crates to keep the dogs contained, but they weren’t able to bring along all of their animals.
“My mind went blank, and I was trying to find the most important thing, you know, and I figured it was our lives,” Rodriguez said. “Now we have some chickens, but we opened the coop, and we let them out and we didn’t bring them. And our cats, we couldn’t see them or find them. So they took off before we could get to them.”
Both Rodriguez and Rubio said they believe their homes escaped damage, but not all their neighbors were so lucky.
“Yes, we’re relieved our house is OK, but my heart is more towards the ones who are officially homeless,” Rubio said. “I don’t know if they know or not.”
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The High Mountain Ranch Community has lost 30 of its 50 homes. When the people forced out of their homes return, they say they’re eager to help their neighbors.
“I’m going to check the whole neighborhood. I’m going to see who needs help in there, and I’m going to see if there’s anybody that we can actually help out if they need,” said Danny Moman.
Jeff Johnson said his neighbors were those most affected by the wildfire’s destruction.
“We feel our neighbors — the two in front. I think the three homes that were lost — two of those are in front of us, and one is behind us. So after we take care of the basics with us, we’re going to turn and see what we can do to help our neighbors,” Johnson said.
The Texas Forest Service said work is still needed on the 30% of the fire not contained. As long as nothing changes and the firefighters’ work stays on track, they hope to have 100% containment by Tuesday night.
The red flag warning runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.
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