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Medina VFD: ‘It takes a village’

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

“We’re only interested in serving the Medina community the best way possible,” said Lee W. Bailey, president of the Medina Volunteer Fire Department Board of Directors. During an interview on Tuesday, May 9, Bailey, along with Director Fred Sides, spoke to the Courier about attempts to locate property for the construction of a new fire station.
Last week, in an article titled “Orchard Park dilemma – VFD or not?” the Bandera County Courier covered a growing kerfuffle because a portion of Medina’s tony subdivision along Highway 16 North had been identified as a possible location for a new firehouse in Medina.
“For the last couple of months, we’ve been in a ‘research and discovery’ mode,” Bailey said. He indicated that Sides, who was described as “knowing property and the lay of the land,” has been searching for property to meet the fire department’s current and future needs.
A larger fire station is a must because this fall the department will take delivery of a 4,000-gallon water tanker, which will be the largest fire truck in the county’s multi-departmental system. The tanker was partially funded by a $200,000 grant from the Texas Forest Service.
“The new truck is 39-feet long and our largest bay, which was designed for an ambulance, measures just 29-feet,” Bailey explained. “Insurance requires that the tanker and equipment be fully enclosed and locked. To do that we have to build a bigger firehouse.”
Sides noted that neither property currently owned by the MVFD meets those requirements. The original firehouse and a second building are located on Stringtown Road and the present facility is on Highway 16.
The antiquated buildings on Stringtown Road are currently used as “smoke houses” to train firefighters. Built as an ambulance station, the Highway 16 location was given to the MVFD when Bandera County EMS took over ambulance service in the Medina area. “Neither property has enough land for our needs,” Sides said.
He has looked at a dozen pieces of property, but most were in the floodplain, he said. “A new firehouse needs to be centrally located, close and accessible to the greatest density of homes and most importantly, not in a flood zone. It floods quickly up here and we can’t be cut off.”
Additional space would also allow for a pull-through bay. “You don’t want to back up a tanker truck the size of our new one,” Bailey said.
Currently, the MVFD serves 386 square miles within Bandera County, which amounts to 48 percent of the county – and less than one square mile has fire hydrants. The area is comprised of 1,036 residences and businesses with approximately 1,774 residents. “We serve the largest area with the oldest equipment,” Bailey said.
A possible expansion to Orchard Park is not a new idea. “We looked at property there about four years ago. Shortly after that, we got a new board and they weren’t ready to purchase property yet, so it was tabled,” Bailey said. At the time of the original search, the Orchard Park property was deeded as commercial, but reverted back to residential in the ensuing four years, he explained.
The property, Bailey noted, would fit the department’s criteria. “There’s room for future growth and it’s in Medina proper, an area with the greatest density of houses. The location is also out of the floodplain and won’t be cutoff by flooding which happens a lot here,” he said.
“And it has great visibility, which is really important,” Sides added.
To offset the cost of a new, larger piece of property, the board of directors would need to sell the department’s current holdings on Stringtown and Highway 16.
“The bottom line is we’re looking for a property to meet our critical needs and that of the community. We’re volunteers and aren’t trying to stir anything up. What goes on in Orchard Park, goes on in Orchard Park. We just work for the community,” Bailey said.
He plans to schedule a workshop and open house with the community within the next couple of weeks to discuss future plans of the MVFD.
“We have one more piece of property to look at,” Sides said. “We want something that’s functional and that the community will be proud of.”
Conceding that there are valid concerns about any new development, Bailey said, “We would like to present, as soon as possible, the critical needs of MVFD and best possible solutions to all the community as we seek new property.”
He also made a plea for more volunteers to augment the 17 man volunteer fire department. “We always welcome residents to our monthly meetings, which begin at 7 pm, the third Thursday of each month at the firehouse – the next one will be Thursday, May 19,” Bailey said. “You don’t have to fight fires or be a medical responder to be a member. We always need volunteers for administrative and support functions. We’re here to serve.”
He continued, “Right now, 10 to 12 people are doing most of the work. It takes a village, you know.”