SAN ANTONIO – There's no need for an alarm clock inside Leon Valley's fire station.
Bed time comes when it can, and it can end at any moment.
"I understand there are nights where I'm going to be up all night," said Assistant Fire Chief Eric Burnside. "That's what the citizens need from me and that's what I want to provide to them."
Burnside doesn't do it alone.
He has crews of dedicated firefighters, many of whom also are trained as EMS providers, to help him get the job done.
They serve a city within a city with a population of more than 11,000 people.
Leon Valley, which is about three-and-a-half square miles in size, is surrounded by the San Antonio city limits.
Because of that, fire crews often find themselves dealing with emergencies similar to those in the bigger city, only their numbers are smaller.
On any given shift, there are six to eight firefighters on duty, working around the clock.
"It's usually a motor vehicle accident, somebody having chest pains, somebody unresponsive," Burnside said, discussing the most common calls they receive in the overnight hours.
Less often they're called to house or car fires.
One night in February, though, was an exception that rule.
A fire that started in a garage in the 6200 block of Setting Sun ended up spreading to two homes.
Despite the efforts of those firefighters, both homes sustained heavy damage.
Captain Wade Clapper said those types of losses can be tough for his crews to take.
When there's a loss of life, it can be devastating, he said.
"I just think about the other calls, the people that we have helped, things where we made a difference," Clapper said.
His way of coping, he said, is to focus on the positive.
On one recent night, the only thing firefighters were able to focus on was catching up on their rest.
Clapper said they had just completed a day of non-stop calls.
Training scheduled for that night had to be canceled.
While it is a tough job with a tough schedule, Clapper said many of his crew members wouldn't have it any other way.
"We have a lot of fun at our job," he said. "We enjoy our job. It's not so much a job as it is a way of life."
Burnside agreed, saying helping the public makes it all worth it.
“So many citizens are so supportive of what we do,” Burnside said. “It is difficult, but when you come to work, it changes. Your whole mentality changes. Your whole perspective changes.”