Firefighters in Atascosa County ‘overwhelmed’ by high call volume, limited resources

Departments relying on donations, boot drives and plate sales

The drought and record-breaking heat are affecting the Atascosa County fire departments’ call volume and budgets this year.

ATASCOSA COUNTY, Texas – The drought and record-breaking heat are affecting the Atascosa County fire departments’ call volume and budgets this year.

The Poteet Volunteer Fire Department is one of many departments experiencing an exceptionally high call volume compared to previous years.

“Lately, it’s been overwhelming,” said Poteet volunteer firefighter Donovan Garcia.

The total number of calls Poteet firefighters responded to last year was 129. So far this year, it responded to 331.

“That’s more than we’ve ever seen in the year, period. And we’re only about halfway through the year right now,” Garcia said.

The calls consist of house fires, medical responses and mostly grass fires. Atascosa leaders issued a disaster declaration for wildfire risk in March.

“The temperature, how dry things are, the lack of precipitation -- things could get hectic in a matter of minutes,” Garcia said.

Poteet firefighters are not alone. The majority of the county is experiencing high call volume and thin budgets, according to the Atascosa County Fire Marshal’s Office.

Commissioners budgeted based on the number of calls last year, which does not factor in the high call volume, replacing broken equipment and the rising cost of gas.

“Everybody is feeling it. Every fire department within the county, outside of our county, outside of our state is feeling it,” Poteet Assistant Fire chief Rick Flores said.

The fire departments do not expect to receive any more funding from the county this year. For now, many departments are relying on donations generated through boot drives and plate sales.

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About the Authors:

Camelia Juarez is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2022. Camelia comes from a station in Lubbock, Texas. Now, she is back in her hometown. She received her degree from Texas State University. In her free time, Camelia enjoys thrifting, roller-skating and spending time with family and friends.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.