Helotes fire fighters were dispatched to a possible structure fire last Monday, August 7 at Shotgun Way in Helotes. Both units were already out as there had been massive rain and flooding causing the City to close some of the low water crossings in Helotes.
Members of the fire department including Chief Walton Daugherty responded to the emergency tone from dispatch. As the fire fighters converged on Shotgun way and Peach Crossing, one can hear the fire fighters talking on the radio trying to locate the spot of the fire.
Finally fire fighters located heavy smoke in the upstairs bedroom and attic of a house located on Shotgun Way. As they are transmitting about heavy smoke in the attic and no active fire present in the home, dispatch transmitted, “All Helotes units our radio system is down. All Helotes fire units our radio system is down.”
There is no indication how long the radio system was down.
A unit from District 8 and ESD District 7 had responded to assist with the fire. However, if the structure fire had grown, or if an emergency developed Helotes Fire was without the assistance of dispatch during the fire.
According to the audio tape recording the fire was actually located by the homeowner and he was able to extinguish the fire with water.
Helotes Fire Department located the source of the fire, a lightening strike during the storm that caused the flooding. All units were able to return to the station without incident.
This is just a string of issues the dispatch center of Helotes is facing. Leon Valley officials reported problems with calls and reliability of equipment when they first sent the City of Helotes a notice of termination earlier in the year.
Other cities cancelled their contracts with the City of Helotes because the equipment either malfunctioned or would not record the entities calls.
This fiscal year, which ends September 30, the City of Helotes taxpayers will have spent $560,000 on a dispatch center that was never originally planned for the building.
Mayor Tom Schoolcraft concerned about services offered by Bexar County decided to take savings from the certificates of obligation used to construct the firehouse and create the dispatch center. Since the construction of the Helotes Dispatch center, Bexar County has invested multiple millions of dollars into the County’s 911 and emergency dispatch center, utilizing new technology and system improvements that leave the Helotes Dispatch center almost in a prehistoric era.
The original operating cost of the Dispatch Center was $230,000 and Schoolcraft promised City Council in 2013 that within 3 years the center would be turning a profit for the City of Helotes.
Instead of turning a profit, the dispatch center has more than doubled the cost of operations and still only two other cities utilize the service offered by Helotes.
We are waiting from a response from Helotes City Hall to inform us how long the radio system was down. What caused the radio system to go down, and what has been done to remedy this from happening again.