SAFD firefighters travel to Houston, rescue 160 people on their days off

Portions of SE Texas slammed with 50 inches of rain

SAN ANTONIO – Two San Antonio firefighters returned Thursday after performing dozens of rescues in flood-devastated areas around Houston. Station 31 Engineer Robby Vosburg and Station 7 Fire Engineer 7 Ronny Fikes decided they couldn’t sit back and watch from home.

So in their days off, they loaded up a boat and equipment and headed toward the flood. They tried to make it to the home of Fikes' parents, but were stopped 20 miles from it southeast of Katy.

“We didn’t get close to them, we got stopped in 4 feet of water and people (were) asking for help,” Fikes said.

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Every road they attempted was filled with water.  

“We got trapped we couldn’t go any further with our truck, as we were going to turn around a guy jumped out of his truck and stopped us and said, ‘Are you here to rescue people?’ I said ‘Yeah, but we can't go further,’”  Vosburg said. “He said my 80-year-old parents are stuck over there knee-deep in water.”

They unloaded their boats and started the rescue. After about six hours, they had pulled about 160 people from that community. More help, including other boats, arrived later. During their trip, they took a couple of minutes to do a Facebook Live session to show friends and family what they were dealing with.

The video shows flooded intersections, people directing boat traffic and just plain devastation. “It was 100 percent the hand of God, if you ask me to be in the right place at the right time. We were there before anybody else,” Vosburg said.

He remembers seeing sewer water overflowing into a creek and spreading into the subdivision. That danger, along with mountains of floating fire ants and even alligators, were all part of their surroundings.

“My wife asks me ‘Why do you have to go do this?’” Vosburg said, “We're firemen, it's in our blood. I don’t think it’s anything you think about. It’s in your heart.”

Both said their training helped prepare them to handle the situations they encountered. Along with boat rescues they were also helped respond to medical calls.  They don’t think much of what they did, but instead of what else needs to be done.  

“It’s just the beginning there’s so much to be done down there,” Fikes said.  He never made it to his parents’ home, but they were safe.

They are currently working to take helicopter fuel to gas up the volunteer helicopter groups working the area.

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