Medina County residents return home as evacuation orders and road closures lift

1,092 acres burned, 3 homes destroyed, no lives lost as officials declare Das Goat fire 95% contained

MEDINA COUNTY, Texas – Four days after the Das Goat fire flared up in Medina County, residents who were evacuated from the homes were allowed to return Tuesday morning.

After the flames burned through 1,092 acres, officials said that the fire was 95% contained on Tuesday. County roads were opened back up, as was the High Mountain Ranch subdivision, where two out of three homes that burned up in the fire were located.

Access to the subdivision off of CR 2615 remains restricted to residents only. However, county Emergency Management Coordinator Keith Lutz told KSAT that officials hope to open it up to everyone by noon on Wednesday.

Emergency Service District 1 Fire Chief Clint Cooke took KSAT into the subdivision for a tour of the damage and to show just how close the fire got to some homes.

”The really, really hot areas, you see far more rock consumed all of the mulch and ground cover,” Cooke said.

Homes, trailers, cars, and the ground in the area coated in pink retardant dropped from the sky in an effort to help ground crews.

“This was a very, very difficult spot for them. They were committed to just making sure this house was saved. They had kind of a refuge area, and it allowed them to make a decision that they wanted to focus on the house,” Cooke said.

Crews put themselves between the fire and the homes in some cases to save them. In one case, an attached deck caught fire, and they were able to keep it from spreading to the main structure.

“Everyone was here for the same mission. They came from all over the state. Nobody cared who was in this house. They wanted to make sure this house was saved and the community had a house to come back to,” Cooke explained.

On top of the support from Texas, there was help sent in from other states.

Forest Service spokesman James Wettstaed said at one point 29 different agencies were all fighting together.

Their work allowed John Galvin to return back to his house after he evacuated Saturday.

Galvin’s shed and barn were destroyed, but fire crews were able to save his house and take care of his animals left behind.

“Feed my chickens and water my chickens through that whole process and feed the cats. ‘Cause I only had six when I left. When I come back, I had three more,” Galvin said.

His young children, ages 5 and 9, are still trying to grasp what happened and why all of their outside toys are lost. Galvin, on the other hand, said he’s finding things for which to be thankful.

“I’m glad the house is up. I’m glad we got the power back on, the A/C works. Got the water pump going, got the pressure on good,” Galvin said.

Lutz said they were both giving residents room to work on clean up and waiting to see how things fared with the fire overnight.

There’s still heat in the area, Lutz said, and winds are expected to pick up. Cooke says that’s the reason they’re still asking people across the region to stay vigilant and fire aware.

“We still have a significant risk all across our region with the continued drought and fire danger and the state resources are -- the state provides a great number of resources, but there’s only so many of them right now,” Cooke said.

Farther up CR 2615, Lewis and Monica Lesley were counting themselves fortunate that their home escaped the fire.

The red-colored fire retardant that fire crews dumped on homes to protect them from the flames still covered their back porch. And though a smokey smell, and even ashes, lingered inside the house, it was not damaged.

Ashes and lonesome-looking trees covered the hillside of the Lesleys’ back acreage, while a few charred spots on the lawn marked how close the fire got to their home.

Before she evacuated the house Saturday with her two-year-old grandson, Monica Lesley left the sprinklers on, which possibly helped keep the flames at bay.

“The (Texas A&M Forest Service) said that’s a reason that we didn’t lose our house -- because the embers didn’t get close enough to ignite anything up here,” Lewis Lesley said.

Forest Service spokesman James Wettstaed said it was a combination of luck and hard work by fire crews that more homes weren’t damaged in the Das Goat fire.

“The subdivision is within the interior of the fire at this point in time,” he said of the High Mountain Ranch neighborhood. “So, yeah, every house could have burned if conditions had been different or the firefighters hadn’t been there.”

Wettstaed said they expect the fire to be considered 100 percent contained “within the next couple of days,” and people will be patrolling in the meantime.

There have been no reports of any deaths related to the fire.

About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.