Medina County wildfire 100% contained, fire officials say

Some residents able assess damage at their homes

Wildfire 100% contained

MEDINA COUNTY, Texas – A massive fire in Medina County that tore through over 1,000 acres in a week and one day is completely extinguished, according to fire officials.

As of around 8 p.m. Saturday, the fire is 100% contained and burned through 1,092 acres total.

Fire officials said the response took thousands of personnel hours and hundreds of aircraft drops with assistance from several area agencies.

There were no injuries reported for residents or firefighters.

This will be the Final Update: After one week and one day, 1,092 acres burned, thousands of personnel hours and...

Posted by Medina County ESD1 FIRE/EMS on Saturday, April 2, 2022

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Some residents allowed back

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 Ranch 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

Crews protect homes threatened by wildfire

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.

Community brought closer

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.

Family evacuated twice

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.

Families seek shelter in Helotes

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.”

KSAT Q&A: Texas A&M Forest Service officials bring latest update on Medina County Fire

Neighbors looking out for each other

The High Mountain Ranch Community has lost three 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.

Moman is the newbie in the High Mountain Ranch Subdivision, and built his home there a year and a half ago.

“We thought this was a great area. We loved it. |We loved that it was just so secluded and everything. Never thought about forest fires,” Moman said.

Pictures from his home’s security cameras showed just how close the fire got.

“Oh man, it’s terrifying. My wife was crying all night,” Moman said.

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.

Latest containment efforts

There is good news for Moman and others in his neighborhood, though. The fire hasn’t grown anymore Monday.

James Wettstaed, with the Texas Forest Service, said there is still a threat with some of the fire left to contain.

“It’s the steepest most rugged part of the ground out there at the north end of the fire toward the river so there’s still a threat for escape,” Wettstaed said.

When dealing with a wind-driven fire like this one, crews will create fire lines around it to cut the flames off from its fuel. Then, firefighters will make sure there’s no lingering hot spots hiding in the root systems or inside of trees, ensuring no embers will blow out beyond their lines.

“So when we’ve got to the point where we feel the section of line is secure and the fire is not going to escape because we’ve done that work, we call it contained,” Wettstaed said.

Electricity restoration efforts

Simply containing the fire is the biggest battle but not the only one.

“We had six poles down. Eight were damaged. Then, we found out a few more came down overnight,” said John Rush, manager of transmission distribution operations for Bandera Electric Cooperative.

Power was knocked out for 119 homes as a result of the fire. Rush said they’ve called outside help and were able to get power restored for all but five homes.

“Three homes were destroyed but the other two?” KSAT reporter Leigh Waldman asked.

“We’re reaching out to them personally to let them know the status of their restoration. Some, unfortunately, we’re not -- there’s not a lot to come back to,” Rush said.

On track to 100% containment

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.

WATCH: Donations pouring in for evacuees, firefighters impacted by Medina County wildfire

About the Authors

Ivan Herrera has worked as a journalist in San Antonio since 2016. His work for KSAT 12 and includes covering breaking news of the day, as well as producing Q&As and content for the "South Texas Pride" and "KSAT Money" series.

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

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