A large forest fire worsens south of Medina Lake

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Lora and Anthony Gaytan were out shopping on Saturday afternoon when their neighbor called to tell them they had to evacuate. It was their first alert that a fast moving fire was nearby in the town of Mico.

They rushed home, but when they got to their street, Medina Dam Road, it was blocked with barricades.

Residents around Medina Lake were forced to evacuate on Saturday as a wildfire burned through the area. Video: Jerry Ellis / Courtesy

“They wouldn’t let us in. We had nothing with us,” Lora Gaytan said. “I was a bit hysterical. He was pretty calm.”

“We will buy more things. At least we were safe,” Anthony Gaytan said.

With nothing but the clothes on their backs, they headed to his parents’ house with their 6-year-old son to wait.

The wildfire south of Medina Lake began on Friday evening when a car caught fire and flames spread across the dry terrain. It had burned more than 1,000 acres by Sunday afternoon and forced a number of evacuations.

The fire destroyed three homes, but no injuries were reported, said Texas Forest Service spokesman James Wettstaed.

The fire is only 10% contained. The situation worsened on Sunday as strong wind red flag conditions intensified and humidity remained low. Similar conditions are expected Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

Twenty-eight agencies are helping fight the blaze, including the San Antonio Fire Department, which sent five brush trucks to help Sunday morning. The Texas Forest Service leads the Unified Command.

It was not until around 11 p.m. on Saturday that the Gaytans were able to return to their home. They spent hours between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. packing suitcases full of clothes, toiletries, toys for their son, photos, keepsakes and important documents.

“If we really had to say goodbye at home, it would be heartbreaking,” said Lora Gaytan. “You can rebuild a house, but how do you rebuild a house? Where to start ?

Anthony Gaytan owns Anthony’s Boat Storage, next to their house on Medina Dam Road.

“I had these clients calling me all day,” he said. “I asked to get their boats out, and I had to tell them they couldn’t get anything yesterday. Some of them didn’t care, they said they had insurance.

Lora Gaytan said: “I feel a lot better than yesterday because we have our stuff. I feel much more prepared at least.

On Sunday, most residents except those living on County Road 2615 between County Road 265 just south of Paradise Canyon, including the High Mountain Ranch subdivision, were able to return home, but they remained ready to leave at all times.

At the intersection of County Road 271 and County Road 1283, residents climbed an embankment Sunday morning to look into a valley where they saw helicopters drop buckets of water on fire.

Russell and Lisa Rhynes, who have lived in the area for around 20 years and were evacuated to a hotel on Saturday evening, came to the embankment to check on the status of the fire.

“There was so much smoke you couldn’t see,” Russell Rhynes said of the fire conditions on Saturday. “Then everything was orange in the middle. … You could see flames in the sky. It was crazy.”

“We are at the limit. We are worried about this,” he said. “Now the winds are in our favor, but it’s not in favor of others, so you can’t wish for that to change.”

“We’re also worried because we have our animals,” Lisa Rhynes said of their goats, pigs and dogs at home. “We have two (dogs) with us, but we can’t take them all. It’s heartbreaking.

Terry Owens and his daughter Peyton Owens, 16, were also watching the fire on the embankment.

“We thought it would be extinguished (Friday) evening, then we woke up at 4 a.m. and there were flames everywhere, they were higher. Everything was orange,” Peyton said.

The mother and daughter, like many residents, were waiting to hear if another evacuation order was issued. They prioritized packing Peyton’s prom dress and her five reptiles, along with their other pets and keepsakes.

“It was very scary, and it’s still scary with this wind picking up. You just don’t know what’s going to happen,” Terry Owens said.

The Forest Service’s Wettstaed said there was no precise tally of evacuations as of Sunday’s date.

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