Notes from the Peanut Gallery

Thursday, October 9, 2008

High Fire Danger Alert

High fire danger alert for central Texas

Texas Forest Service urges extreme caution

October 9, 2008--COLLEGE STATION, Texas--The Texas Forest Service is urging the public to be aware of heightened fire danger in most of central Texas due to prolonged drought conditions.

“Fuel sources remain very dry and susceptible to accidental fire because of the prolonged drought in the central Texas area,” said Tom Spencer fire risk assessment coordinator for Texas Forest Service. “Normally this time of year we see a decline in fires because of decreased temperatures, shorter burning periods and more precipitation.

“While cooling temperatures have helped the situation, there is still a high risk for problematic fires because of the prolonged drought conditions in the area,” Spencer said.

These drought conditions could lead to problematic fires that will spread quickly, pose containment problems and endanger public safety. The public should be aware that these fires, if accidently started, could quickly get out of hand.

For more information on fire advisories and area conditions, go to Texas Forest Service and click on Fire Danger/Advisories.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hello Dolly!

from the Texas Forest Service


July 22, 2008--COLLEGE STATION, Texas--While the citizens of South Texas worry about possible flooding associated with Hurricane Dolly, firefighters in most of the state worry that winds associated with Dolly could lead to increased wildfire activity and/or fan the flames of any wildfires that arise.

Rainfall associated with Dolly is expected to be limited to Deep South Texas and within a short distance from the Texas coast. Strong, gusty winds, however, are expected to extend across much of the state where little or no precipitation is expected.

Combined with extremely dry fuels in much of Texas, the higher winds are expected to create conditions favorable for rapid wildfire spread and increased danger for firefighters, said Hunter Wistrand, operations chief for the Texas wildfire suppression team in Granbury.

“With hot, dry conditions expected across most of the state for an extended period, Texas residents must use all possible precautions to prevent accidental fires from occurring,” said Wistrand. “All firefighting personnel must also take extra precautions to ensure their own safety during firefighting operations.”

Wildfires pose a very real threat to lives, homes and communities in addition to natural resources; they also bring heightened risks of heat-related injuries to firefighters working for extended hours in the hot, dry conditions. “For both the public’s safety and that of the firefighters working to protect them, public cooperation is absolutely essential to prevent additional wildfires from occurring,” said Wistrand.

For more information on wildfire prevention visit

Monday, June 23, 2008

It's all fun and games until someone starts a fire.


from the Texas Forest Service

June 23, 2008


For many, fireworks are an exciting part of Fourth of July celebrations. But the colorful fun they provide can easily turn into a dangerous situation if proper and safe use is not followed.

“It only takes a spark to start a wildfire,” said Tom Spencer, fire risk assessment coordinator for Texas Forest Service. “Fireworks, especially aerial fireworks, can be the source of that spark.”

Much of the state is experiencing drought. As a result, the grasses in these areas have dried and are easily ignited. Spencer recommends keeping fireworks use well away from dry grass and other flammable vegetation, to prevent accidental fires.

The Texas Forest Service recommends the following precautions for safe fireworks use-

  • Adhere to all county and city fireworks laws and restrictions
  • Use fireworks outdoors, away from dry grass and buildings.
  • Follow label instructions on how to properly discharge fireworks.
  • Only use fireworks with close adult supervision.
  • Keep a bucket of water, wet towels and a garden hose nearby.
  • Discard used fireworks; never try to relight them.
  • Allow used fireworks to cool thoroughly before handling to avoid possible burn injuries.

Caution is advised on fireworks use because of the potential they pose for starting wildfires. Texas Forest Service urges those celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks to plan ahead and limit use of fireworks to areas where accidental fire starts will not occur.

“Everyone doing their part will help make sure we all have a happy and safe Independence Day holiday,” said Spencer.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

20,000 Acre Wildfire Threatens Texas Communities

Youngblood Fire in Dawson County -- 4-21-08 from the TFS website.

June 5, 2008--20,000 acre wildfire threatens West Texas communities

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Heavy air tankers, helicopters and ground crews from Texas and New Mexico are attempting to contain the 20,000-acre wildfire burning through Presidio and Jeff Davis Counties, Texas.

According to Texas Forest Service officials, the path of the wildfire is moving northeast at approximately two to three miles-per-hour (mph) and threatens more than 60 homes. Also in the path of the wildfire are the Bloys Camp historic religious site, the Crow's Nest tourist camp, the Bloys Symbolic Oak historic tree of Texas and numerous wind turbines.

High winds, high temperatures and low relative humidity contribute to the enormity and speed of this wildfire and others burning today throughout West Texas.

Today and tomorrow, look for SSW winds in the 30-40mph range and relative humidity (RH) values dropping into the single digits in the Panhandle south of I-40 and in the northern part of the Southern Plains. SSW winds will be 25-35mph with single digit relative humidity in the Trans-Pecos, southern part of Southern Plains, and Panhandle north of I-40.

Current drying weather conditions cause moisture in vegetation and ground cover to decrease. Grasses and twigs less than ¼" in diameter are classified as one-hour fuels. The one hour refers to the amount of time it takes for the fuel to respond to atmospheric moisture. With current one to two percent moisture levels in these one-hour fuels in West Texas, officials from Texas Forest Service predict that wildfire spread would be in the two to five mph range.

"The fuels – grasses, etc. – are critically dry in part of the lower Permian Basin and Trans Pecos areas and not much better in parts of the Panhandle," said Brad Smith, fire behavior analyst with Texas Forest Service. "The conditions are such that we could see very active fire behavior today and tomorrow over a large portion of the western part of the state."

For more information, go to and click on Fire Danger/Advisories.

For more information on the Bloys Symbolic Oak, go to

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A little help needed in Eagle Pass

A friend of ours, Mary Jane in Eagle Pass, is asking for a little help on Saturday, May 10.

Dear friends, on May 10 at 11:30 a.m. -- 2 p.m. at Maverick County Lake, my family will be having a chicken plate sale with trimmings and drink for a donation of $5.

This is to benefit my husband Guillermo Hernandez' medical bills. We will greatly appreciate your donation.

Let me know if you would like to purchase a ticket and also help by telling some friends about the plate sale or you can just go by that day of the sale. See you all there. Thank you!!! God Bless!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Heckler story "revisited" in The Brackett News

On April 17th The Brackett News' front page story read, "Heckler hassles firefighters on hose line." The story goes on to say that a BVFD member heckled KCFR during a structure fire. This week, in the April 24 issue, on the very back page in the classifieds under "Corrections" the paper informs us that said heckler is not a BVFD member anymore and hasn't been for at least three months.

I've talked to a few people who were at the fire, including said heckler. It's true that he has not been a Brackettville VFD member since at least January of this year. He volunteers with another department and, for various reasons, he had to resign his position with BVFD when he began volunteering with another department. No criticism there, how many fires can one man fight?

I don't know what KCFR has to say on the matter. The accused heckler says he offered his services, was told his help wasn't needed, offered again, was told no again, and that he then moved back to where he was asked to so that he would be out of the way. He also pointed out that this, ultimately, was not a polite exchange from either side but that he certainly did not interfere or "heckle" KCFR while they were trying to suppress the fire. According to him, once KCFR made it quite clear that in no way, shape, or form would they accept his help--that he got the heck out of the way. He claims his only comment at all to any KCFR members after he stepped back out of the way was to point out that they couldn't get the fire hydrant open because one of the members was turning the valve the wrong way. Is it heckling to point out such a very important fact at the scene of a fire?

Beyond that, according to him, he said nothing. According to another witness at the fire who was close enough to hear the exchange between the "heckler" and KCFR, the so-called heckler offered his services, was refused because of insurance reasons, offered again stating that he wasn't worried about injury to himself and wouldn't press for compensation if he were hurt but was refused again. This witness, who preferred not to be named, says he saw no heckling of any kind that evening. He also pointed out that he wasn't near our former BVFD member throughout the evening and can't vouch for all of his actions at the fire.

I can hardly blame KCFR for saying no to the offer (the liability probably just isn't worth it for a county run department to take on help from unknown strangers at the scene of a fire), nor can I blame our former BVFD member for wanting to help--especially considering his training and experience. KCFR could have been much more professional in saying no, and our former member could have turned the other cheek when he was treated rudely instead of being rude right back. But, hey, stuff happens. And a structure fire is a very stressful place to be for all fire fighters.

I'd like to know what kind of heckling people are claiming our former member was doing and I'd like to know which people are claiming to have witnessed it. I haven't heard a peep about that. Speaking of lack of source material, KCFR still fails to point out under what statutes they have established their department. The powers that be still seem content to disregard our points of law on the matter and refuse to offer points of law that disprove ours.

As long as the citizens of Brackettville, TX continue to allow themselves to be told what to believe, they'll continue to believe what they are told. I encourage everyone in Brackettville to press their city and county leaders to prove what they say to be true and to conduct business according to Texas legal statutes. If you aren't being shown the truth, then you must seek it out for yourselves.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

BVFD and The Brackett News

Yes, I know BVFD made it on the front page of The Brackett News last week. Thursday afternoon and evening brought a flurry of hits on the blog, many emails full of question marks and exclamation points, and we burned up a lot of minutes on our cell phones. But I'm told that the newspaper will be revisiting the story again next week so I'm hesitant to respond to the story just yet. Check back next Friday!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Any y'all from West Virginia?

This was posted as a bulletin on Myspace by Rhodell VFD West Virginia. I've put it here to help spread the word.

Rhodell VFD needs your help.

“One cannot underestimate the impact of Hatfield-McCoy trail system on our economy in southern West Virginia…. From 2000-2002…. 55 reported accidents”. - WVSMA President Ron D. Stollings, M.D.

What a statement from a doctor from CAMC in 2004, can you imagine? Can you imagine the accidents that will be in the new Burning Rock ATV trail in Raleigh County? A part of which will be serviced for rescue by the Rhodell Volunteer Fire Department.

The director of Burning Rock has estimated the beginning trail system to contain well over 80 miles of trails. From family to hard scaled trails for riders. A camping area, stores, fueling station, and many other conveniences for the enjoyment of the ATV riders. But consideration for their medical welfare is being neglected. One medical ATV for one fire department, will that be enough?

What about the areas in our department’s rescue area? Are we to walk in, use our large 1 ton vehicle rescue truck, or just not respond?

The Rhodell Volunteer Fire Department needs your help to purchase a medical rescue ATV for this purpose. It may not be you that we help, but it could be your brother, sister, father, mother, son, or daughter.

“It's interesting that in southern West Virginia, where more ATV deaths occur than in any other part of the state, they also have the Hatfield McCoy trail which has had only 2 deaths on the past 5 years at the trail” - Norbert Federspiel

The Rhodell Volunteer Fire Department takes its responsibility seriously. With the knowledge of the trail, firefighters of the department are in enrolling in ATV, search and rescue classes, and first responder courses to prepare for opening day of the trail in July of 2008. Our members would like your support in preparing for this economic growth in the area by helping purchase a medical ATV.

“The ATV traveled 100 feet over the embankment, striking several trees. Sunday’s accident is only the fourth fatality in the seven year history of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System.” - Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority

The benefits of the medical ATV will not only be realized at Burning Rock, but in all other areas we cover and have aid agreements with other fire departments.

“Fatal ATV accidents have increased in West Virginia, with a total of 134 deaths since 2004 - including a record 54 in 2006.Nearly two-thirds of the fatalities recorded between 2005 and 2007 occurred on paved roads, according to a study commissioned by the Manchin administration” -WV Gazette

The benefits will be realized in time, rapid response to the inevitable is vital to the welfare and health of those who fall victim to accidents on ATVs. Please support our efforts by donating a generous portion to the purchase. The members of the Rhodell Volunteer Fire Department thank you for your consideration and support.

Please send donations to:
Rhodell Volunteer Fire Department
ATV Fund
P.O.Box 201Rhodell, WV 25915

Or call 304-683-3420 for more information

Monday, March 17, 2008

Wind Advisory Cancelled for today, storm system still on the way!

Urgent Weather Message

National Weather Service Austin/San Antonio

A wind advisory has been issued for all of south central Texas and the hill country from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. today. An intense storm system approaching from the west has resulted in strong, gusty southeast winds across much of Texas. Southeasterly winds will increase to 20 to 30 mph today with gusts between 35 and 40 mph possible.


The wind advisory issued earlier for all of south central Texas and the hill country has been cancelled.

Although brisk south east winds of 15 to 25 mph have prevailed throughout much of the day, sustained winds have not reached wind advisory criteria levels. An intense storm system approaching from the west tonight will result in winds continuing in the 15 to 25 mph range tonight.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Be warned!

Red flag warning remains in effect from 11 am this morning to 9 PM CDT this evening.

A dry line will move across south central Texas today. This will bring unseasonably warm and very dry conditions to the area. Relative humidities will fall to between 5 and 15 percent in the afternoon. West and southwest winds will develop and increase to15 to 25 mph and gusty. Highs in the upper 80s to lower 90s can be expected. These temperatures will add to the critical conditions.

Winds will decrease after sunset and relative humidities will slowly recover. A red flag warning means weather conditions will promote firesthat are difficult to control across the warned area. A red flagwarning is completely separate from a local burn ban which isissued by local officials.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hey, our first official Blogger comment!

just another guy said...

i saw the kens 5 show. it looked like the trucks are in better shape anda better station. i know those guys ( county ) put alot of time and moneys into geting those trucks fixed from where you guys bluntly toar them up. give it up already you guys are done. how can you keep voting on new members with no trucks and no station. if in three years the county guys cant hack it you will have your dept. back.
March 11, 2008 8:13 PM

BVFD said...
Oh, you're a riot "just another guy." The county is putting a lot of time and money in the trucks. BVFD would have done the same if the county and the city had seen fit to give us the money they'd budgeted for us.

Bluntly tore them up? Yeah, that happens on fires, you should know that if you're a fire fighter at KCFR. According to your fire reports with TFS, you've already "bluntly torn up" your "new" trucks. That's just part of fire fighting.

We keep voting in new members because BVFD is incorporated and as long as we keep training, we're still eligible for grant money for yet more training and more equipment. And as some of our guys are 3rd generation BVFD, we are not ready to give up. Fighting fires, as you know, gets in your blood. You almost have to do it. We're not ready to quit training, and we're certainly not ready to quit BVFD. We still have a department, what we don't have is trucks.
Correction: Actually I am mistaken. KCFR's fire reports don't reflect any truck damage aside from one blown tire. It is from an eye witnesses account at one of their fires that I know one of KCFR's "new" trucks had a malfunction which I don't believe was caused by damage, it just malfunctioned. Regardless of my mistake, brush trucks take a tremendous beating in the field and unless someone is coughing up the bucks for repairs on those trucks, they remain beat up. We've been trying for a very long time to get repairs done on our trucks but the City and County haven't been interested in supporting their VFD for some time.

I would also like to point out that we still have a station. No one has contacted us to tell us otherwise. If they are planning to take our station from us too, I hope they are more considerate about consulting us on the matter than they were in giving away our trucks without so much as a memo for notification.

Regarding KENS 5's take on our story

The real issue for BVFD is that we believe we still own those trucks. The reporter said that the city owns them in one statement, but in another statement he says the trucks were appropriated for BVFD with grant money. To us, the second statement negates any validity to the first statement.

Here's the crux, folks, those trucks were purchased with grant money for BVFD. The grants were very specific in granting that money to BVFD, not the City of Brackettville. In fact neither of the granting agencies involved gives grants to governmental entities. The city insisted, way back when, that they wanted to handle the insurance because it would be cheaper (it wasn't cheaper, but no one at that time did the research) so the trucks were put in the city's name. But when something is paid for with grant money, a process has to be adhered to in order for ownership or use of that thing to be changed. The City never followed that process. According to those grants, the trucks still belong to BVFD no matter who holds title. BVFD should not have trusted the City to honor the agreement. If the City wants to own those trucks free and clear, they have to follow proper procedure to re-appropriate grant purchased equipment.

The trucks may be in the City's name, but they were never granted to the City of Brackettville.

The video.

BVFD on KENS 5 San Antonio TONIGHT!

KENS 5 was in Brackettville today to interview our department and some of the powers that be on the situation of the city and the county jointly deciding (without addressing any of BVFD's legal concerns) that BVFD had no rights to its trucks and that our engines should be handed over to KCFR. Which they were.

We are told that the story will air at either 5 or 6 p.m. Please tune in!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Two new members voted in!

At our business meeting on Wednesday night we voted in two new BVFD members.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Welcome Travis and David!

Friday, March 7, 2008

West Texas under danger alert

March 7, 2008

West Texas under fire danger alert
Vacationers and campers urged to use caution

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – A combination of weather factors forecast for the next few days, plus tinder-dry grasses and vegetation have resulted in the National Weather Service to issue Fire Weather Watches in far West Texas for this weekend. Low relative humidity and strong, gusty wind conditions are on tap for at least the next few days.

With the “Spring Break” season comes those taking vacations that include many outdoor activities, especially in the Big Bend area.

“Our grasses are not in spring green-up yet,” said John Morlock, fire management officer for Big Bend National Park. “We don’t have the flower display that we usually have, and the dry grasses are cured and ready to promote the spread of a wildfire.”

Morlock continued saying that historically during the month of March; three out of four fires in the park are human-caused. “We are asking our visitors to make an impact and help us prevent these types of fires.”

Citizens and visitors are urged to be extremely cautious during this period of critical fire danger. Some precautions suggested by Texas Forest Service include:
· Check with local authorities for Outdoor Burning Bans
· Your vehicles, including ATVs, can start a fire if parked or driven in dry grass
· Be sure tow chains are secure and don’t drag on the roadway
· When grilling, place your barbeque over cement; be sure coals are completely out when you are through (douse them thoroughly with water)

Morlock also urged caution with campfires and backpacking stoves.

For more information on fire weather danger and advisories, go to and click on Wildfire Information.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Texas Forest Service News

Local and state fire resources remain on alert

Proactive attack saves lives and homes

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – When Texas Forest Service (TFS) and the National Weather Service began forecasting extreme fire weather danger earlier this week, TFS wasted no time activating preparedness measures and pre-positioning firefighting personnel and equipment to areas of the state predicted to be at highest risk. As it turns out, this preparation paid off.

The highest fire danger this year occurred on Monday (Feb. 25), and fire behavior was extreme. All available Texas Forest Service resources were committed to the fire fighting effort, including resources from east Texas and all available aircraft from the Texas Air National Guard. At the height of the fight, 1,000 gallon water drops from helitankers did little to slow advancing flame fronts. Tactics switched from offensive suppression efforts to the direct protection of homes and other assets on that day.

T. K. Kennedy, a helicopter manager in Abilene, summarized the day’s events, “We dropped 38,000 gallons of water today, mostly in people’s backyards.”

“Five communities were evacuated,” said James Hull, state forester and director of TFS. “Luckily, everyone was able to return to their homes that night.”

The severity of this year’s fire season is one of the worst seasons on record. Since January 2008, fires have consumed over 500,000 acres and destroyed 300 structures; however, an estimated 5,622 structures were saved.

Governor Perry has issued state disaster proclamations for 216 of the state’s 254 counties in response to the fire danger.

No significant relief is in sight. The long range forecast calls for a strong cold front to cross the state at the beginning of the week, with showers and thunderstorms likely for the eastern half of Texas and a chance of rain and snow in the Panhandle. Little or no rain is expected across far west Texas. Drier, cooler air will spread over all of the state by Tuesday, remaining in place through the end of the week. Fire risk will remain elevated west of Interstate 35 and critical in the Trans Pecos area. Therefore, local and state resources remain on alert.

“The local fire departments are our first line of defense,” said Mark Stanford, fire operations chief for Texas Forest Service. “They have reported to us that they responded to 3,060 fires so far this year for a total of 148,310 acres of the overall acres burned.”

Cooperating and assisting state agencies during the fire season include: Governor's Division of Emergency Management, Texas Department of Public Safety, TX Air National Guard, TX State Fire Marshall's Office and Texas Parks and Wildlife and Texas AgriLife Extension.

Out-of-state resources from Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana and Virginia are providing relief and additional support. Assisting federal resources include the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

Citizens are urged to be extremely cautious during this period of critical fire danger. Some precautions suggested by Texas Forest Service include:

• Check with local authorities for Outdoor Burning Bans
• Your vehicle can start a fire if parked or driven in dry grass. ATVs and farming equipment can also start a fire if parked on the grass.
• Store flammable liquids properly.
• Remove dry vegetation from under electric fences.
• When welding, use a spotter, clear the area of dry vegetation, and have a water source handy. • Be sure tow chains are secure and don’t drag on the roadway.
• When grilling, place your barbeque over cement; be sure coals are dead out when you’re through (douse them thoroughly with water).

For more information on fire weather danger and advisories, go to and click on Wildfire Information.

Aww, shucks.

Thanks to Ann Legg for her glowing Letter to the Editor in this week's The Brackett News. And we're all so sorry about the loss of your property, but very grateful that no one was hurt.

This week's paper also has this in its community news:

Kinney County Commissioner's Court voted in a special called meeting on Monday, to extend a burn ban on Kinney County for a 90 day period which excludes exemptions in the previous ban.

What this burn ban basically means is that no one can burn, period, even if they've followed prescribed burn ban procedure. For various reasons, some I understand and some I'm sure I'm entirely unaware of, Kinney County law enforcement has been unable to enforce the burn ban in Kinney County, it's a shame but those guys have a lot on their shoulders. Here's hoping that this burn ban extension will make it easier to enforce the ban and, with any luck, make people realize that now is NOT the time to burn.

It's no wonder why people are so desperate to burn that they will defy burn bans. A burn kills off, or at least damages, a lot of inedible trees and brush. Even without rain a burned field pops back with lush, green grasses in just a week or two. It's so odd to see a lush green field surrounded by fields of dry, dead grasses. Lush green grasses are free food for cattle, goats, sheep, deer, and various other livestock and wildlife. It's expensive to have to buy feed during a drought for all your animals. And we've been in this drought for a long while. But the danger posed by burning during a drought is great. With the gusty winds we have and the super dry conditions, a wildfire can get out of control in a flash. When this happens, homes, livestock, equipment, structures, vehicles, fences, and people maybe in danger. It's a very big risk and not worth what could be lost.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

BVFD members give what they got

Our trucks may be out of our possession at the moment, but we haven't run out of ways to serve.

The Rio Grande Electric Cooperative in Brackettville, TX hosted a blood drive by the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center. Donors got a free t-shirt and some gentle treatment by the "vampires." They seemed like a happy, if thirsty, bunch of folks.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Some of the gang

The guys consented to a group shot after tonight's meeting 'cuz Jack (gray shirt, front row) wanted one for his girlfriend. Kissie lovey mushies from Jack to Carla! Seemed as good an excuse as any for a group photo, of which we have few.

The guys are flashing their "Ever Alert" cowboy fireman cups.

I'll fill in the rest of the guys names soon, I don't have everybody sorted out in my head yet. Sorry guys!

Monday, February 25, 2008

The City of Brackettville and the Kinney County Commissioners have officially withdrawn any and all support for the Brackettville Volunteer Fire Dept.

And it just goes downhill from there.

Tonight there was a workshop held between the City Council and the Commissioners Court. At the very beginning of the meeting my husband presented the workshop attendees with copies of the grants, *like this one, showing ownership of the BVFD trucks as well as other information we felt they should have before making their decision. The Commissioners’ legal counsel promptly stuffed all of it into a briefcase of some sort on the floor and later told the workshop attendees that there was NO issue with the trucks, because he’d seen the titles on at least one of them and knew them to be in the City’s name. I guess that was good enough for him. No one even glanced at the evidence provided by BVFD except Nat Terrazas after I gave him a note (the time for public input was over and no one in the peanut gallery was being acknowledged) telling him that they were there (he'd asked about how BVFD came to have the trucks and the rest of the attendees pretty much blew off his question). Minutes later there was a fire call and fire department members had to leave and never really got a chance to speak. Members of the public were only granted three minutes each anyway, BVFD wouldn’t have had much time to defend their stance on the matter. Although they should have been a part of the meeting, as KCFR was, and not regarded as “the public.”

The meeting was all about the Fire Protection Agreement between the City and the County which included giving over BVFD’s trucks.

The City voted unanimously for the new agreement. The Commissioners voted 3 for, and one against. Commissioner Nat Terrazas opposed the motion, thanks Nat!

Here’s the truly brilliant part of this new agreement. No where in it is how this switch over to KCFR from BVFD is to be handled. Both the County and the City made it quite clear that they were through supporting BVFD. But they didn’t discuss what happens now. What if there’s another fire between this very moment and the time that the trucks are handed over to KCFR? Even as I type there is a 10 mile wide fire raging on the Edwards/Real county line and Brackettville is full of the smoke from this fire. Is BVFD expected to respond if there’s a fire now? When are we expected to hand over our trucks? How long will Kinney County be without fire protection while the trucks are repaired? Or will the County be looking the other way while KCFR uses our outdated trucks to fight fires? It’s illegal for a paid department to use substandard equipment on a fire.

BVFD, after 57 years of service, has now unceremoniously been told, “We don’t need you anymore, hand over the keys.”

*The reason these grants are significant is because they clearly state that the grants were for BVFD and not the City of Brackettville. It’s unequivocal. The fact that the City insisted on putting the trucks in their name for insurance purposes is a technicality. More important than the title is the fact that you can’t just arbitrarily re-appropriate equipment paid for by grants. There’s a whole process that has to be adhered to and no one with the City or the County will even acknowledge these documents.

One of today's fires

It's quite possible that these will be the last shots ever of BVFD doing what we've been doing for 57 years as the City of Brackettville and the Kinney County Commissioners have seen fit to withraw any and all support from our department and to add insult to injury, they've taken our trucks. But it's not personal, they told us so repeatedly. That makes the theft of our trucks and the loss of community support all better.

Click images to enlarge:

It occurred on FM 334 and was started by someone who was welding and just didn't notice the one hot bit of metal that he'd tossed aside had sparked a fire. It's so dry here, it was out of control befire they knew what happened.

Click here to see all shots from today.

The second fire occurred in Spofford during this atrocity of a meeting. Spofford is a bit of a drive from Brackett. I was told that the house was burned to the ground by the time BVFD had arrived. No one was living in the home and it had no electricity running to it. It's unknown how the fire was started but some residents of Spofford commented that burned paper "and stuff" had been found in the house before and that kids "messed around" in it. BVFD spent several hours on the scene to keep the fire from spreading into the wildland in the area. Thankfully, no one was physically hurt.

More from The Brackett News

My last published blog entry used a clipping from The Brackett News that I honestly felt I had fair use to use since its content wasn't original (unless the newspaper changed the Sheriff's Report before printing it), because it was for non-profit use, and because it was such a small portion of the published paper as a whole. However, in a very polite email from The Brackett News owner, Leigh Volscko, she told me she had been informed that I had scanned and uploaded a portion of her paper and asked me to remove it, so I have.

You will have to just trust me from here, I suppose, unless you have your own copy of the paper to refer to. I will quote the portion of the clipping that I published in my last entry.

In last week's Sheriff's Report there was quote saying that on Monday, February 11th, "....the fire was getting close to the houses. The Brackettville Volunteer Fire Dept. was paged three times and there were no response. The Val Verde Fire Department was then contacted. The fire was later reported under control and aide was cancelled."

This story isn't "wrong." It just leaves out some key facts which ultimately leaves the reader believing that BVFD ignored three calls from the Sheriff's office on this fire. Yours truly was on the phone with the Sheriff's office immediately after the first page and within minutes (less than five) after the first page the fire was called off. In fact, I still have the phone number of the contact person who reported the fire, I wrote it down when the Sheriff's office called my home right after the first page. The fire may have been paged out three times, I don't remember, I was too busy grabbing my husband's bunker gear for him as he was trying to get oriented--he'd just been wakened from a dead sleep-- to count how many times the fire got paged out. I was also very scared because the page had said that there were homes being threatened by the fire. Believe me, that gets you moving. Above all else, firefighters (volunteer or otherwise) are keenly aware of what fire can do to lives and homes.

Our firefighters nearly all have cell phones and they all call each other within moments of a page so they can begin organizing even as they are jumping in their cars to drive to the station. This call was called off so quickly that there was little time for firefighters to call the Sheriff's office or each other.

Response time from a paid department who has firefighters standing by, within feet of their trucks, to respond at all times would be much quicker than the response time from a group of volunteer firefighters who are all asleep in their beds at 2:30 in the morning. A slightly slower response time from volunteers who don't hang out at the station 24/7 is to be expected.

I've said this before publicly and I've said it here repeatedly: If the county wants to create a county run fire department so it can have firefighters who can respond faster and have better equipment, then they should do it. It would be a good thing for the community. But BVFD shouldn't get bashed, even if was an accidental omission, for being volunteers who can't scramble as fast because they are ASLEEP or at work or fishing with their kids or doing what people do when they aren't voluntarily risking their health and safety to protect the lives and properties of others.

If you don't like the way that BVFD responds to a fire, then there's something you can do about it. You can join. BVFD can't be changed from the outside, it's an entity run by its members. BVFD is not answerable to the county or to the city. You want it to be run differently? Then get in here and show us what you got.

On a more personal note, I was sitting in the living room one day watching television with a friend when Julie Fuentes (of Daddy's Grill) knocked on my door. She wanted to let me know that my back yard was on fire. Bless that woman, she probably saved our house. I raced to the backyard to discover that a large pile of wood had caught fire because of some hot coals that fell out of the barbeque pit. We called 911 immediately and BVFD members (this was years before my husband joined the department) were there in less than five minutes. Some were in personal vehicles and one of the fire engines arrived too.

I had the fire out by the time they arrived, a girl can move pretty fast when she's afraid her house is going to burn down, but my eaves were blackened at one corner of the house and those guys scrambled onto the roof to make sure that no sparks had settled themselves on something up there that might catch (my roof is metal but there is some wooden trim up there as well). I watched amazed as they used the call as a training session for some of the newer members--showing the newbies how to feel for hotspots, look and smell for smoke, and I don't know what all they did up there.

I was so grateful for the department at that moment and my gratitude has never waned since. I've always had a special place in my heart for BVFD, however. My stepfather was a member of the department for many years and also served as Chief.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

This morning's fire.

12:45 a.m. and off goes the radio, "Attention all Brackettville volunteer fire fighters, there is a possible grassfire on 693 and Standard Lane." Or something to that effect. Probably won't fill you in on the details until later today. BVFD returned from the fire around 3:45 a.m.

View Larger Map

There are often fires on Standard Lane as the railraod runs along it and trains frequently spark fires. It was dry and HOT today.

Ownership of BVFD trucks.

Brackettville Volunteer Fire Department owns its fire trucks. These links, Unit 25 and Unit 23, will take you to documents showing that the trucks were given directly to BVFD, not to the City. So Matt Bland, Brackettville's Mayor Pro Tem, can try all he wants to give our trucks to Kinney County Fire & Rescue but unless he can produce some documentation showing that we signed our trucks over to the City of Brackettville in an official city council meeting and that we followed proper procedure in order to be able to give the trucks away, then we believe that Mr. Bland is spinning his wheels.

Don't know what we're talking about? Here it is short and sweet. The Mayor Pro Tem of Brackettville wants to help the new, paid/volunteer county run fire & rescue department get established by giving them our trucks. The trucks have been in the City's name for years for insurance purposes only. The City did not buy the trucks. BVFD did not give them the trucks.

This agreement between BVFD and the City was hashed out in city council meetings years ago and, really, it should be documented somewhere at City Hall. But City Hall records are a shambles because of a past city secretary who had a few things to hide. This is not Mr. Bland's fault yet, we must ask, before you cripple a fire department and render it incapable of providing fire protection in your community, shouldn't you make sure you can legally do what you're trying to do and, also, do everything in your power to make sure that those trucks will be fighting fires immediately after being given to the new fire department with no lapse in fire protection in your community?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Today's Fire

BVFD rolled with two trucks to a fire reportedly a mile from the Maverick county line on 277. This information proved to be incorrect, the fire was much closer to the border and perhaps even on the other side of it. BVFD was called off the fire, although they were nearly there and maybe already there--not sure on that yet.

Out here in the open country of Brackettville, TX, smoke from the highway can be very deceiving. From the road, it's very hard to guestimate a fire's source.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Newbie Training and a visit from District Chief Donny Guedry, Spring FD

Some of the new BVFD members needed to be properly introduced to the trucks...

... and their parts.

While this not terribly exciting or photographable BVFD training day was occurring, District Chief Donny Guedry from Spring Fire Department stopped by and that was pretty cool. He's on the left in the navy jacket. Thanks for the visit, Donny, it was great to meet you. Your assistance is greatly appreciated!

More and bigger pix from today.

Friday, February 15, 2008

In Answer To The Brackett News

In this week’s The Brackett News the top story reads, “City Council tables crucial fire protection agreement.”

What’s so crucial about it? You already have a volunteer fire department in place that is actively fighting fires. Isn’t switching support from your current fire to department to one that can't even fight fires (yet) like putting the cart before the horse? What about the current agreement between the City and the County for fire suppression? Shouldn't both entities be honoring that?

Here’s what’s crucial to BVFD: getting legal access to the funds that have been budgeted for them so they can continue doing what they’ve been doing, without pay, benefits, or compensation, for the last 55 years.

In the editor's weekly blog the following questions were asked by Allison Taylor, managing editor:

“My question to the council and the community is why not give the fire equipment to the County?"

Here’s one reason, this is taken directly from the Texas Forest Service website:

The Rural Volunteer Fire Department Assistance Program was created by the Texas Legislature in 2001. The program provides cost-share grants to qualified volunteer fire departments for the acquisition of equipment and training. Approximately $14.5 million in grant funds are available each year, beginning on September 1.

On May 4, 2004, the Texas Forest Service conducted its third funding meeting for Fiscal Year 2004. Approximately $3.8 million dollars in grant funds were awarded. The grant recipients are listed below in alphabetical order.

Each department receiving a grant will receive an official Letter of Approval confirming the award.


Link to the grant info page

The grant was for BVFD, not the City of Brackettville. Regardless of who holds title, equipment purchased with grant money must be re-appropriated, sold or disposed of according to the requirements of the granting agency. The City hasn’t researched these requirements much less followed them.

Here’s another reason the City can’t give “the fire equipment” to the County. Only the trucks are in the City’s name. The rest of "the fire equipment" belongs to BVFD. Unfortunately neither the City nor BVFD ever foresaw a day when the trucks might be given to another department so the documentation over who has rights to what is.... well, no one knows where it is.

We can only hope that the City of Brackettville is looking through its records now for meeting minutes that will either verify or conflict with what BVFD believes which is that the trucks are theirs. In the meantime, BVFD is working with the Texas Forest Service to find out its rights over the fire engines and to research the procedures for re-appropriating trucks purchased with grant monies.

“Can the City support the existing department?”

No, not by themselves, not in the long run. Which is one reason that the County has always pledged its help. Another reason is that 90% or more of the fires in Kinney County are outside Brackettville city limits and therefore it has always behooved KC to contribute to BVFD.

If the City and County spent some of the money they have budgeted for BVFD towards the needed repairs, BVFD could continue fire suppression much more effectively.

“Can the City supply better, even brand new equipment with or without grants?”

Yes. $16,000 (the City’s current budget for BVFD support) would go a long way towards repairing old equipment, purchasing new equipment, and assisting BVFD in applying for and qualifying for grants.

“Can the City outright purchase a pumper truck for the city?"

No and neither can the county. That’s why it is being done through a grant.

Plans for a new pumper were discussed between BVFD and Judge Herb Senne almost two years ago. BVFD is unaware if the grant application has ever been made. In addition, no grant or application has been approved by Commissioners Court for BVFD or KCFR.

"What good is equipment if it doesn’t work?"

Good question, why do you think BVFD is complaining about not having access to the funds that have been budgeted by KC and the City? Right now BVFD is still able to fight fires even though KC and Brackettville refuse to repair BVFD's two heavy trucks (essential for fighting wildfires).

BVFD is currently seeking donations to repair those two trucks. To date $3,900 has been pledged. Why does BVFD have to beg for governmental funds that are supposedly budgeted for fire suppression?

“Does the City have the money to get them in tip top shape like they should be?"

If the City and County were spending the funds budgeted for fire suppression the equipment wouldn’t be in such bad shape.

One of the great things about having a volunteer fire department is that the Texas Commission on Fire Protection doesn’t require that a VFD’s equipment meet the same standards as a paid department. This allows rural communities like ours to be able to afford fire protection. VFD’s can use just about anything they can get their hands on. The City, with help from KC, could certainly keep BVFD running efficiently and effectively if they are allowed the use of the funds budgeted towards their repairs.

“What is the down side?”

There may be many, most of which are legal issues. It would be great to have a properly sanctioned, county run fire department. No one is disputing that. But so far, there's been no proof presented that KCFR is meeting the guidelines of a paid/volunteer fire department as set forth by Chapter 419 of the Texas Government Code.

By the way, many counties have two fire departments. Del Rio has a paid department that focuses on city fires and a rural volunteer fire department that concentrates its efforts outside the city limits. Kinney County has plenty of rural area that needs fire suppression. If current red flag conditions continue, there will be no lack of fires for both a paid and a volunteer fire department to suppress. However, if BVFD had access to the budgeted funds, it would be more than up to the challenge of handling city and rural fires in Kinney County. BVFD also believes it could do so more cost effectively since all its members are volunteer.

“What’s all this talk about working together, but we want we want…. that is not working together.”

No one has offered to work with or even consult with BVFD on the issue of turning over BVFD trucks to KCFR prior to Tuesday night's meeting. Without those trucks, BVFD can’t work at all, with or against anyone.

We want
Kinney County Fire & Rescue wants Brackettville Volunteer Fire Department trucks. They also want a pledge of money and support from the City with a payment of $10,000.

We want
Matt Bland and Mayor Eddie Esparza want to give BVFD trucks to the County as well as a $10,000 check to support KCFR.

We want
BVFD wants to continue fighting fires in Kinney County as they have for last 55 years and they want to be able to count on City and County support to do so.

“Saving $6,000 yearly isn’t so bad either."

Brackettville is going to save $6,000 with this agreement? Taylor doesn't say why. Does she say this because the City has $16,000 budgeted for BVFD support but KCFR will only cost them $10,000 (the first year) and the BVFD fire engines?

The City didn’t spend $10,000 on fire suppression last year. Just because money is budgeted for a thing doesn't mean all of that money is spent towards it. In fact, the City should factor into their final decision on handing the trucks over what it has actually cost to fund BVFD annually for the last ten years, not just what they've budgeted annually.

The City of Brackettville made a wise decision tabling this issue on Tuesday night and here’s why: How smart is it to give money and fire engines to a fire department that can’t use them because the trucks don’t meet the requirements for a governmental run fire department?

KCFR is a department that, so far, hasn’t proven its status with the Texas Fire Commission. A smaller detail to consider is that KCFR doesn’t have a building to store and protect its fire engines. If BVFD trucks are given to KCFR, and KCFR only has a pumper truck to fight fires with, how are wildfires going to be suppressed while KCFR's "new" brush trucks are being repaired and brought up to TCFP (Texas Commission on Fire Protection) spec?

As stated before on this blog, you can't fight a wildfire with a pumper truck, no matter how new and shiny it may be.

Here are a few questions for the community, the Council, the Mayor, KCFR, the County, and The Brackett News:

Is the new interim fire chief for KCFR getting paid or is he a volunteer? Was he ever officially appointed by a governing body? Does our new interim volunteer fire chief meet the following qualifications as dictated by our state’s statutes?

(f) A local government may appoint a person to the position of head of the fire department, though the person is not certified by the commission as fire protection personnel, if the person either has at least 10 years' experience as a volunteer fire fighter or may be eligible to become certified under the provisions of Subsection (d) relating to other states or jurisdictions.

Link to § 419.032.

Under what state statute is KCFR claiming it can operate a paid/volunteer fire department?

How many grants has KCFR actually qualified for, with whom, how much are they for, and does the county have the money yet?

Is the money that Bruce Hudgens, Kinney County Emergency Medical Coordinator and EMS Director, intends to spend to repair BVFD’s trucks budgeted by KC?

Is Kinney County sure that the trucks can be repaired to such a condition as to be legal for a county run fire department to use?

How much money has been budgeted for these repairs, if any? Will it be enough?

Why hasn’t money promised to BVFD by the County in the past been given to BVFD for some of the needed repairs?

Why should we believe that Kinney County will take care of those trucks now when they haven’t used any of their BVFD budgeted funds towards that purpose in quite some time?

Isn't it perplexing that no one has asked for or investigated the cost of repairing the fire engines that some city officials want to give to KCFR?

Horse before the cart, folks. Do your research, make sure all your ducks are in a row, THEN vote, appropriate, decide, shuffle, spend, appoint or whatever it is you gotta do to establish and equip your new Kinney County Fire & Rescue.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Today's Fires

As mentioned in the previous post, there was a controlled (not sanctioned) fire in Kinney County today that was done, reportedly, under prescribed burn ban guidelines. But there was a second fire that was very much accidental. A train started it, happens all the time. Sparks from the fire jumped two lane, no shoulder FM 1572 like it wasn't there at all and raged on through the brush. BVFD was able to get it under control and I don't know at this time if any other fire departments were called in.

Current Burn Bans in Texas

Last Night's City Council Meeting

City Council met last night and on the agenda was discussion of the recently formed Kinney County Fire & Rescue and a proposed agreement between KCFR and the City for fire suppression and support (from the City in the form of money, water, and equipment). There are fancier terms for how it was written on the agenda but I don't have the agenda here in front of me.

When item number 14 came around, KCFR discussion (with possible action), it started off okay. Everybody talked about making nice. An interim fire chief has been appointed for KCFR and there is reportedly one dozen volunteers just waiting to get out there and protect Kinney County in the name of KCFR. No one with the City or the County seems to care that Texas statutes prevent a county run fire department from having volunteers. This is perplexing. Seems kind of dangerous to accept all the grants Bruce Hudgens (Kinney County Emergency Services Director) reports he has acquired for KCFR because once Texas Forest Service realizes that KCFR is county run, not member run, KCFR is gonna have to give that money back, y'all. That is, providing, those grants were given with the understanding that KCFR is a volunteer department. The only way you can have a paid/volunteer department is to have a department that is established as not-for-profit and is run by its members. KCFR is not a not-for-profit organization nor is it run by its members.

Anyway, after all this 'make nice' talk one of the council members began his bid to give two of BVFD's trucks over to the county. BVFD only has three working trucks. Matt Bland, the council member bent on handing over BVFD equipment, pushed and pushed and pushed to give those trucks to KC. He's ready to write a check for $10,000 (part of the proposed agreement between KC and the City) to the County and give over two trucks (some seriously damaged trucks but running trucks noneth less) to the County so they can start their fire department up right.

When I complained about giving such run down trucks to the county he said some things that implied that the trucks aren't worth keeping anyway, run down as they are. If that's true, what the heck does KCFR want them for? They've already ordered themselves a nice, new pumper truck. They can't get a grant for a couple of brush trucks? They have to take our busted up trucks? Texas Forest Service paid for one of our brush trucks. That money was given to BVFD, not the City of Brackettville. That much is online at TFS for anyone to read. We're 99.9% sure that the City has no right to give away that particular truck and we're pretty sure they can't give away our other trucks either.

Does it make sense to you why a volunteer department has to be crippled so that a new, county run, supposedly grant-rich fire department can get on its feet? Have I mentioned that county run fire departments cannot legally drive around in beat-up old fire engines? Nope. There are standards with a paid, county run fire department. Volunteer departments can bypass those standards thus saving rural communities like ours a bundle of bucks.

BVFD would be glad to have a well-funded, highly trained, super duper equipped paid department to work with in Kinney County. But not if it means we have to give up our trucks to make it happen.

I don't know how long it takes to repair those big fire engines. These are in bad shape. They're in bad shape because neither the city nor the county has seen fit to pony up the funds for repairs on the trucks in at least one year. But now they're willing to fund a brand spanking new, paid fire department and fix up our old trucks but only if the new department is driving them? Is it me or is this starting to sound personal?

But back to how long it takes to fix out of date fire engines. What's Brackettville and Kinney County supposed to do for fire suppression while KCFR is fixing up their (our) new (used) trucks? There are two fires in the county right now, at this very moment. One is a controlled burn (not authorized by the state but reportedly following the state's guidelines for a controlled burn) north of town and grassfire east of town. No idea yet on the cause of the second fire, it was called in by a pilot who saw it from the air about and hour and a half ago.

What happens if a fire sparks up while both engines are in the shop? BVFD cannot fight any fire effectively with one brush truck. And brush trucks aren't pumper trucks. Pumper trucks can hook up to fire hydrants and poor endless amounts of water on a structure fire. Brush trucks carry a limited amount of water and are not designed for structure fires. Speaking of which, why in the heck is KCFR getting a brand new pumper truck when well over 90% of the fires in KC are wildfires? You can't fight a wildfire with a pumper truck.

Fortunately three council members did not agree with Matt Bland last night. The Mayor seemed to and certainly tried to support Mr. Bland as well as he could at the meeting. But Mary Flores, Ponce Padron, and Chica Garza voted to table the whole affair so that it could be hashed out between BVFD and KCFR. Thank you Ms. Flores. Thank you Mr. Padron. Thank you Ms. Garza.
By the way, no one approached BVFD prior to this meeting to discuss giving away their trucks. The City continues to ignore BVFD's insistence that those trucks don't belong to the City. It is our belief that those trucks are ours. No one has bothered to research it further than to look at the titles on the trucks. Unfortunately, the City of Brackettville has a lot of blank spots in its records. BVFD may never be able to prove through City documentation that their trucks are their trucks. But they can get affidavits from several people who were at those meetings and can testify that, yes, the trucks were put in the City's name for insurance purposes only and that the trucks have always been BVFD equipment. Also, no one ever asked BVFD to come together with KCFR to discuss the needs of either department and what one might be able to provide the other. You'd think before you decided to cripple an entire volunteer fire department (with somewhere around 20 members) by giving away 2/3's of their vehicles you'd let them know ahead of time. Not in Brackettville, TX.

One other thing about the meeting that was rather annoying was that Mr. Bland insisted on talking about the "city's fire department" and how no one was suggesting that the "city's fire department be disbanded." Mr Bland, the City of Brackettville does not have a fire department. BVFD is its own entity. It is run by its members. The City can't disband them. No one can except its own members. We suggest, Mr. Bland, Mr. Mayor, and the entire City Council, that you educate yourselves a bit on these issues before you allow BVFD to be crippled and before you allow the only protection against fire that Kinney County currently has to be taken away.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Today's fire

It was just west of town on Highway 90. Some folks were just burning trash and the sparks flew and, well, it's DRY here!!!!! Really really dry! And even though there is at least one grass fire a week people keep trying to burn stuff outside.

The fire was put out in short order. Only a guestimated five acres (mas o menos) burned. It could have been much worse. No injuries, no damage.

On the road again

Off they go again, the call just came in. A fire west of town, very different location from last night. Will advise when I know more.

City Council is scheduled to discuss BVFD Tuesday night and there's mention of possible action. If they take the action they've been trying to take for years now, they'll be giving BVFD trucks to the county, in effect, they'd be giving them to the Kinney County EMS.

Here's the deal. KCEMS has been newly dubbed Kinney County Fire & Rescue. Hey, awesome! We could use a better funded fire department in Kinney County. We have to call for help all the time (and often get called for help as well), it would be nice to call for LOCAL help! But, huh? What? The powers that be want to give KCFR our trucks? But... what will we drive? We've got volunteers, we've got equipment, we've got tons of training! And we can't afford new trucks. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water!

Is KCFR staffed well enough to fight fires AND handle EMS calls in Kinney County? We often have eight to ten guys on a fire, and sometimes more. That's a lot of staff for Kinney County to be paying. How many EMS guys do they need on staff at all times? If they staff enough EMS and fire fighters to respond to medical and fire emergencies 24/7..... wow, that's going to cost a fortune!

Are they going to fix the trucks because a county run fire department can't just drive any old piece of junk--only volunteer departments can get away with that. This isn't an opinion, it's the law. Seriously, KCFR goes out in their "new" trucks under the county's flag and they can be fined. Now, let's say they plan to get the trucks up to legal standard before they use them. Then what? The county has to go without fire protection for how long while the repairs are being completed?

And, no, despite what you may have been told KCFR will not be taking volunteers. Well, they shouldn't at any rate because it wouldn't be legal unless they are first fully staffed. And despite what the City of Brackettville continually implies, BVFD is not a city run fire department. It's its own entity, self-governed. A not-for-profit fire department with paid members can also have volunteers. But they must be self-governed. They can't be run by a city or county or by any governmental agency.

Much of this is explained here:

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Grass Valley Grass Fire

This fire was located about 15 miles north of Brackettville, TX on Tularosa Road in what is known as Grass Valley Draw. I shot it from just under 15 miles away. The fire was located on the Postell Ranch where yet another somebody decided they could handle a controlled burn despite the very dry conditions and the burn ban. At least there was no wind today. It still took three fire departments to contain this fire. BVFD had two trucks on site, Val Verde County Rural Volunteer Fire Department had two trucks, and Uvalde sent one. More trucks would have arrived if not for the Carta Valley fire which has been burning for a couple of days now and is now spread out over thousands of acres.

The road into the Postell through a car's windshield.

The fire came right up to their home. The lights on the right side of the shot is the house. The light on the left side is the fire. The foreground is blackened by fire, not by nightfall. They managed to keep their home and property from catching fire. Lucky for them they have a well on the property feeding into a large, concrete tank. All the brush trucks that attended the fire were able to fill up their reservoirs without having to drive 15 miles back into Brackettville.

A firefighter on Unit #25 running the pump for the hose.

A Val Verde volunteer firewoman prepping her engine.

Cedar is quite volatile when it catches, this was a fairly small tree sending sparks so high into the air and I shot it from about 250 feet away.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Controlled Burn Out of Control on 674

View Larger Map

I was standing in the kitchen when the call came, "Attention Brackettville Fire Fighters, we have a controlled burn that is OUT OF CONTROL on Cedar Creek Road 4.3 miles off 674." The emphasis is not mine, it's how the dispatcher said it. Fire Fighters and Sheriff's deputies alike are up to here with these "controlled burns." It's just so dangerous.

At the fire station, as the volunteers were gearing up for the fire, two members were preparing to go even as another was trying to find two more volunteers to go in their place. So many fires last week has caused volunteers to miss work they couldn't afford to miss. The guys are still willing to go even if it means loss of income and, possibly, the loss of a job. BVFD members stepped up and the two men were able to return to work, but what's remarkable was that they came to the station without hesitation. They were ready to go. And even as they were leaving they made sure to let the others know to call them if they were needed.

As I was typing this up the Sheriff's department cancelled this call. The landowner reported that his fire was, in fact, under control. Better safe than sorry, I suppose.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

One heck of a fire

BVFD and Val Verde County Rural Volunteer Fire Department members spent all day on the fire today. They were just now headed back and, bang, BVFD had two tires on one of their trucks blow.

No reported injuries or structure damage. A guesstimated 500 acres burned between yesterday and today and it's quite possible that the fire will spark back up in the next day or so. Let's hope it doesn't!

Cotulla was calling for help from VVCRVFD and BVFD for a raging blaze in their area. BVFD doesn't have the resources to help with a fire like that, unfortunately. Our trucks are in desperate need of maintenance and the City of Brackettville and Kinney County seem unable to help financially.

The Cotulla fire was bad enough that: ...officials closed Interstate 35 through Cotulla at about 3:30 p.m. because blowing smoke from brush and grass fires made driving difficult. Both directions of a four-mile segment were shut down, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Source --

Sunny, Gusty, and Smokey

Today's weather in Brackettville:

Relative Humidity: 8%
Wind: 320° (NW) at 43mph
Gusts: 51mph

Is it any wonder that yesterday evening's grass fire started up again today? Yup, BVFD is out there on the same fire. Will report more when I know more.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Big thanks to the Val Verde County Rural Volunteer Fire Department!

This grassfire was on FM 334, north of Brackettville. To the best of BVFD's knowledge, the fire was simply an accident and no one is sure of the cause. Certainly no one has yet mentioned noticing any evidence of an attempt at a controlled burn.
It's so dry out here, fires can spark up quite easily. A vehicle's hot catalytic converter can spark a fire in dry grasses. Farm equipment can set off a blaze in the blink of an eye. Sometimes grassfires are started by people travelling through the property on foot who may start a fire for warmth and/or cooking.

I noticed a deer blind when I went out to shoot these photos and wonder if it's possible that a hunter may have accidentally started this fire. But there is no way to tell.
BVFD was called for this fire around 5:30 p.m. and Val Verde County Rural Volunteer Fire Department was on standby. I'm guessing at the time because I forgot to look at the clock when the call came over the radio. I left to go and shoot the fire somewhere around 6, I think. This photo was taken just a few miles from the turn into the property where the fire was.

The fire is somewhat wide spread and not an easy one to contain. It seemed very patchy, probably because sparks DO fly. The fire was probably jumping all over the place out there. Last I heard at about 7:30 p.m. they were calling for VVCRFD's tanker truck (full of water). You can't fight a fire without water and this fire is 15 miles from town. That's a long drive to go fill up your truck reservoirs. I believe BVFD's brush trucks only hold about 300 gallons each (they desperately need new brush trucks). On a grassfire like this, BVFD spends their water very carefully as 300 gallons of water can be expended, completely, from the tanks in under five minutes. It's a good thing this fire happened today because tomorrow we're under a wind advisory.

These photos don't show how widespread the fire was. In order to keep out of the way I couldn't roam around to shoot it from very many different angles.

Above is VVCRVFD Chief Jerry Rust and Pat Rust (driving). Please someone correct me if I have Pat's name wrong.

This is one of Val Verde's trucks. Notice all the thick brush and cactus. This country is full of cactus and thorns, big and small. It's hell on fire department brush trucks. Every call out in the boondocks means damage to the trucks.

The fire is still burning, I left when the sun got too low for me to see my way through the brush anymore. I never did find BVFD, but I know we had two trucks out there. I was trying my best to stay upwind and out of the way and didn't bother any of Val Verde's to ask where BVFD was. It didn't help that there is zero cell phone service on most of FM 334. Even if I'd wanted to bother BVFD Fire Chief Leo Luna with a phone call to find out his location, I couldn't have.

Follow Up: By approximately 10:30 p.m. BVFD trucks had been gassed up and returned to the station and Val Verde County Rural Volunteer Fire Department, was on their way back home with their two trucks and their tanker. Thank you Val Verde!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Burn Bans don't apply to everyone

This is what can happen when you think you know better than the Texas Forest Service about Burn Bans. The owner of the Kinney County property pictured in this series of photos (just click them to enlarge them) decided late yesterday afternoon to burn a little patch of his land despite the burn ban. His fire got out of control and threatened farms and ranches on every side of his property. It was literally within feet of one of the fire department member's family's property. It was right across the road from a very large and active farm in the county.

In Texas you can have a controlled burn on your property if you will allow the state to help you. It's free! But not during a burn ban. The reason is because it's too dangerous. If this landowner would have had just a little patience he could have had all the help he wanted with his controlled burn with very little risk to his property or that of his neighbors. But, no, like so many farmers and ranchers everywhere he decided he was experienced enough and smart enough to organize his own controlled burn and this is the result.

Instead of burning a tiny sliver of land on his property as he intended, he instead burned at least half or more of his property. No structures were damaged. The land will pop right back up from this fire. Ultimately this fire will be a help to his property. He'll probably have to replace some fencing. But he's very lucky that the Brackettville Volunteer Fire Department was able to come out and get the fire under control before it spread to other properties where it could easily have destroyed crops, homes, structures, vehicles, livestock, or even people.
Burn bans DO apply to everyone and with good reason. Please, if you must burn, just wait until the burn ban is lifted. The state will help you. It's free. And it's oh so much safer.

Above: Just this narrow strip of caliche separated the property with the uncontrolled "controlled" fire and the working ranch next to it. Sparks can cross a caliche road as easy as you please.

Below: This two lane road was the only thing in between a large, local, working farm and the raging grassfire a stone's throw away. Thousands of dollars worth of equipment (just out of shot) were at risk not to mention the property itself.

Lucky for this landowner, Kinney County law enforcement doesn't have the man power to enforce burn bans. This landowner will not be fined unless one of his neighbors chooses to press charges for endangering their property. In any other county with law enforcement that has the time and man (or woman) power, this landowner would have had a hefty fine filed against him. As it stands, there will be no consequences to this landowner for his actions. For this reason many Brackettville residents and Kinney County landowners burn whenever it suits them. Thankfully, they are few. Most people are smart enough to know how dangerous this is. But it only takes one fire on the right day to destroy more than just weeds, brush, and a few thousand feet of mesquite fencing. A dry enough day when the winds are just right and a fire like this will be truly devastating.