Texas Chief Defends Actions Despite Delay of Ambulance to Fatal Fire

Aug. 19--LEON VALLEY -- Leon Valley Fire Chief Luis Valdez praised his department's response to a July 5 apartment complex fire that fatally injured one woman, with his remarks coming after it was reported that it took 31 minutes for an ambulance to arrive on scene.

Valdez presented an after-action summary to the Leon Valley City Council at around 12:15 a.m. Tuesday, toward the end of a lengthy meeting. He said firefighters arrived at the Forest Oaks apartment complex on Evers Road within 5 minutes of receiving the call.

"Our firefighters, police officers and our dispatcher responded effectively against an overwhelming, tragic and chaotic scene," Valdez said. "Sixteen people were rescued, evacuated or removed and had their lives spared. The fire was contained within the two buildings, preventing further tragedy throughout the complex."

Chanelle Reyes, 31, died from her burns at San Antonio Military Medical Center 28 hours after the blaze.

When a neighbor reported the fire around 1 a.m., the dispatcher immediately alerted the city's police and fire departments but did not call an ambulance until 15 minutes after the initial 911 call, according to dispatch recordings.

Acadian Ambulance arrived on the scene about 15 minutes later, 31 minutes after the neighbor called 911.

The Fire Department had six firefighters, who are also paramedics, on duty. They responded with an engine and platform truck, choosing not to man an ambulance so they could concentrate on search and rescue in the 165-unit apartment complex, Valdez previously told the Express-News.

Valdez told the council that firefighters spoke to Reyes at the scene and were by her side.

The police and fire chiefs had previously said they would conduct a formal review of the response, and that they did not believe the dispatcher did anything wrong.

Valdez said at the council meeting the review process showed the department needed an upgrade to a communications system that would allow them to work better with other agencies assisting Leon Valley firefighters. At the July 5 fire, firefighters and police from Balcones Heights, Castle Hills, Shavano Park, Bexar County and Helotes also responded.

The Bexar County fire marshal has ruled the blaze was intentionally set.

Also during the marathon meeting, council members narrowly approved a controversial project to pave a trail through an already existing nature area in the city.

djoseph@express-news.net

Twitter: @DrewQJoseph

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