Response to fatal fire to be addressed in Leon Valley city council meeting

Councilwoman ‘disappointed' to learn of concerns via media

LEON VALLEY – The fire department's response to a fatal apartment fire on July 5 will be discussed before the city council on Monday, August 18, after two council members asked that the response be addressed publically.

Carmen Sanchez, Place 2 Councilwoman, said she was disappointed to learn through the media of concerns surrounding the department's response to the fire at the Forest Oaks Apartments.

Chanelle Reyes, 31, died from injuries she sustained in that fire.

Sanchez feels city administration should have informed council members of the questions being raised.

"I feel like I should be informed because I represent the people," said Sanchez.

Sanchez says she, in turn, began receiving questions from residents that she could not answer.

"Certain residents and neighbors had asked me about what had happened here and if I had seen the news," she said. "They're concerned about their safety because of what they heard in the media. It appears that we may have opportunities to improve."

Manny Longoria, the Leon Valley City Manager, says he emailed city staff, Mayor Chris Riley and the full city council on July 7 regarding fatal result of the fire, two days after the blaze.

Sanchez says there was no further communication from city administration once KSAT 12 began reporting on the questions surrounding the fire.

On July 9, a witness to the fire came forward with concerns about how long it took an ambulance to arrive at the scene to treat Reyes.

"That's what's bugging both of us is what if she could've got to the hospital earlier," the witness said on July 9.

Callers reporting the fire to 911 told the dispatcher that there was a woman burned at the scene.

In numerous reports since then, KSAT 12 has learned that LVFD did not dispatch its own ambulance to the Forest Oaks Apartments and relied on mutual aid from private EMS company, Acadian.

In previous interviews, Fire Chief Luis Valdez said the staff of 6 firefighters on duty July 5 was not enough to send a fully equipped engine, ladder truck and ambulance to the scene.

"Its just one of those things where we have to call in additional resources and manage it as best we can," said Valdez on July 21.

It took the lone dispatcher on duty 9 more minutes to call Acadian after firefighters requested an ambulance.

Police Chief Randall Wallace, who oversees dispatch, says the dispatcher on duty was handling a chaotic situation that does not happen often in Leon Valley.

Sanchez and Councilman Benny Martinez, Place 4, requested the fire response be placed on the city council agenda.

Longoria is expected present a report on the fire during the August 18 council meeting at City Hall.

Sanchez says she has full confidence in Chief Valdez and just wants questions and concerns addressed.

"I hope to hear that they did everything that they could, which I believe that they did," said Sanchez.

While it continues to investigate, the Bexar County Fire Marshal's office has determined the fire was intentionally set.