South Hays Fire trying to staff all stations amid extreme fire danger in area

HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Fire crews in Hays County are keeping busy this summer. There was a fire in Kyle on Tuesday near Interstate 35.

Just over the weekend, a fire burned through 400 acres near San Marcos.

Not too far away from where that happened, there is a station that is not regularly staffed. But the fire chief for that ESD said he’s trying to change that.

Getting more staff

South Hays Fire Chief Robert Simonson said they need all the manpower they can get which has ramped up hiring efforts.

“We’ve managed to put 42 people on. We’ve got captains positions that we’ve managed to fill,” Simonson said. “We’re in the process of filling the full-time fire positions.”

Specifically, Simonson’s goal is to staff station 13 located in a more rural part of San Marcos.

Right now, he said firefighters are only there on a case-by-case basis.

“This station is the furthest from the other stations, and it poses the most significant risk just due to the wildland urban interface that we have right here,” Simonson said.

This comes at a time when the Texas A&M Forest Service increased its wildfire preparedness level to four.

“It means now we are seeing a higher volume of wildfires. It’s taking more of a commitment of our resources for longer durations of time,” said Karen Stafford from the Texas A&M Forest Service.

What’s contributing to the fires?

Simonson said some of the reasons these fires are taking off so quickly are the wind and small trees in the area.

“It’s like a candle,” Simonson said. “This one starts the next one starts the next one.”

Simonson said limiting the number of small trees in an area and keeping the grass short can stop a fire in its tracks.

“If they trim these trees back, trim their big trees, trim the small trees and plant the right vegetation at their homes, they’re going to limit their exposure to any damage from a wildland fire,” he said.

Simonson also warned against having mulch near a home or vegetation debris on a wooden deck.

“If there’s a fire downwind and it blows an ember into the mulch, it’s going to start the mulch on fire, which is going to cause your house to catch on fire,” Simonson said. “Don’t give the fire a chance to get close to your house to catch your house on fire.”

When it comes to working outside, Simonson encourages to always have a source of water nearby.

“If you’re going to do anything that may involve sparking, grinding, cutting, anything like that, make sure you have a way to put it out if you do start a small fire,” he said.

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