San Antonio Flying J travel center destroyed by fire rises from the ashes

Fire started inside Denny’s near I-10 and Foster Road before it spread to store

SAN ANTONIO – A popular travel center and truck stop on the far East side of San Antonio is back in business after a devastating and destructive fire.

Flying J, located near Interstate 10 and Foster Road, quietly reopened approximately six months ago.

The business had burned to the ground in December 2022 due to a fire that started in the Denny’s restaurant attached to it.

The fire sent up huge flames that caught the attention of people near and far from the site.

Smoke and flames from the fire in December 2022 could be seen from miles away. (KSAT 12 News)

“Thankfully, we had no major injuries throughout that entire ordeal,” said Kam Watkins, regional manager for Pilot Flying J, thinking back on that day.

Watkins, who was not present when the fire started, remembers arriving later to what was left — a smoldering pile of rubble.

Meanwhile, Kristina Balderas, who, at the time, managed a small deli inside the convenience store, had arrived at the scene while the fire was active.

“I was driving to work, and I got a call that the store had a possible fire,” Balderas said. “I was really sad. I didn’t know what to really think at the time.”

While it was clear the building where she worked was gone, there were a few minutes in which Balderas was concerned about her own future.

However, Watkins said the company, which owns more than a half dozen stores in San Antonio, quickly stepped in and ensured employees that they would be taken care of in the wake of the fire.

Balderas said some of the workers were offered opportunities at other Flying J or Pilot locations.

With the reopening of the store, some members of the previous staff has returned.

“About 35 percent are still at this store,” Watkins said.

The store, itself, though, looks quite different.

Among the new features inside the rebuilt Flying J store is a row of self-checkout registers. (KSAT 12 News)

Watkins enthusiastically pointed out the new changes during a tour she gave KSAT on Thursday. She called it a complete rebuild.

“We scrapped everything, tore everything apart and rebuilt the entire building all the way back up,” she said.

Big rig drivers can still stop in for a shower or a meal, although there is now a full-service deli instead of a Denny’s.

The store also offers several new self-checkout registers.

“Our professional drivers don’t have time to wait,” Watkins said.

Even with all the new offerings, some of the workers said something missing — some of the older customers.

“Several guests don’t know that we’re opened back up,” Balderas said. “There’s a few that we really miss, that we haven’t seen.”

Having them return would be the ultimate comeback for Balderas, a heartwarming end to a fiery ordeal.

More related coverage on KSAT:

About the Authors

Katrina Webber joined KSAT 12 in December 2009. She reports for Good Morning San Antonio. Katrina was born and raised in Queens, NY, but after living in Gulf Coast states for the past decade, she feels right at home in Texas. It's not unusual to find her singing karaoke or leading a song with her church choir when she's not on-air.

Azian Bermea is a photojournalist at KSAT.

Recommended Videos