Having previously worked as a Buda volunteer firefighter for eight years, Derick Mendoza’s instinct is to help others when danger looms.
When fire threatened his family’s and neighbors’ property, Mendoza didn’t hesitate to help.
Such was the story for many near Mathias Lane and Peaceful Valley Drive Monday as a grass fire scorched 150 acres Monday afternoon, as the close-knit group of neighbors rushed to aid each other during a time of need.
“This is a close community,” Mendoza said. “People grew up around each other.”
Mark Schultz, Kyle Fire Marshal, said no one was injured in Monday’s fire that burned a total of 150 acres. The fire also destroyed two sheds and burned five vehicles.
Schultz said the Kyle Fire Department responded to the grass fire at approximately 1:43 p.m. Monday at 203 Peaceful Valley Drive.
The grass fire was a half-acre wide when fire crews arrived on scene, Schultz said. But a blustery 15 to 20 mile-per-hour wind fanned the flames and spurred on the fire. Hays County Fire Marshal Clint Browning is investigating the cause of the fire. Schultz said it’s believed open burning may have caused the blaze.
Schultz said Kyle Fire Department Chief Kyle Taylor knew roughly where the fire started, but was unable to see the “head of the fire.” In addition, Taylor saw other houses in the path of the fire.
Those factors led Taylor to call for Task Force 3, which mobilized fire units from across the county to help. Assisting the Kyle Fire Department were units from the South Hays, North Hays, Chisolm Trail, Buda, Wimberley and San Marcos Fire Departments.
“We’re grateful for the recent rains, but the result is thick grass. With the cool weather we got, it means there’s a bunch of fuel on the ground,” Schultz said. “Between the wind, the dry fuel and the low humidity, it just took off.”
As fire units worked to extinguish the fire, many area neighbors helped to evacuate the scene.
Area resident Gilberto Ibanez, who saw the fire near his property, promptly called 911, and then began calling his neighbors to inform them of what was happening.
“It wasn’t big at first, but then all of a sudden, boom, the wind caught it,” Ibanez said.
When Mendoza arrived on his property, he went to let animals loose that were in danger. He also helped other neighbors by trying to keep the “grass around their house cool.”
Mendoza also went to survey the fire on his property.
“I was driving up to our property line and it was moving pretty fast,” Mendoza said. “It was four feet high in a matter of seconds.”
Jeffrei and Brian Gamez, who have lived in the area for roughly a decade, attempted to move several vehicles on their family’s property out of the path of the fire.
Both appreciated the assistance of neighbors. They also said neighbors were prepared after a similar grass fire swept through the area several years ago.
“Everyone always comes together and helps,” he said. “It’s the second time that it’s happened, so everyone is more aware the second go-round.”
Schultz said those who opt to openly burn in the county should be aware of wind dangers. He said open burning shouldn’t happen when winds are at or exceed 20 mph.
He said embers can travel up to 100 yards of a fire and start separate fires, increasing the danger.
Mendoza said people should be aware of the fire danger and wind advisories prior to open burning.
“If you have a small amount of trash, why put everyone’s lives at risk? Just wait,” he said. “Wait until the county or fire department says it’s okay to burn. Otherwise people lose property out here.”