San Antonio firefighters forced to shuttle in water to battle 14-hour blaze

Posted at 5:57 PM, Feb 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-20 18:57:49-05

Texas firefighters had to truck in water to put out a massive fire in North Bexar County that raged for 14 hours.

Texas has been battered with snow and record low temperatures this week, which has led to water outages in critical fire hydrants and a lack of safe drinking water.

The flames broke out around 1 p.m. on Thursday in a second floor apartment of the Cortland View at TPC apartments building in San Antonio. Part of the building collapsed late Thursday night.

Officials said 15 water tender trucks were brought in to put out the fire after they realized the private hydrants on the property were empty.

The trucks took turns filling up on water from public fire hydrants located about 2,000 feet away from the blaze. Each truck carries between 2,000 to 3,000 gallons of water and supplies can be exhausted in minutes.

"When we tried to draw water from hydrant on the building, it was dry," Bexar Bulverde Fire Department chief Jerry Bialick told ABC News.

He said water was restored on the property Friday afternoon.

Fire crews worked overnight and the main body of the fire was extinguished by 2:30 a.m. Friday. Crews are still at the scene putting out hot spots.

"There's not much left. There's nothing salvageable," Bialick said.

About 130 people were evacuated from the area. No injuries were reported.

Officials said the fire only razed through the one apartment complex, which had 40 units. Firefighters were able to prevent it from spreading to neighboring buildings.

Residents said they received an alert to turn off their water heaters. Moments later, the blaze erupted, according to ABC affiliate KSAT.

Bialick said residents and locals were taken to a nearby high school gymnasium and hotel to stay warm and take shelter. The Bexar Bulverde Fire Department organized shuttles to take victims to safety.

"We're always sorry for the residents' loss. There was tremendous community effort," Bialick said.

The Red Cross told ABC News its workers have helped 88 people from the fire, providing financial assistance for "food, clothing and a safe place to stay," as well as hygiene items and medical and mental health services.

About 125 firefighters from 13 different departments responded to the scene.

According to the San Antonio Water System map, the area of the apartment complex had a water outage at the time of the blaze and residents said they didn’t have water.

Bexar County Fire Marshal’s Office said it will investigate the cause of the fire.

As of Friday morning over 188,000 Texans remained without power.