After hearing reports of a wildfire within 5 miles of our house this past weekend, Sarah and I verified the location, and I set out with my photojournalist spider senses to create some dramatic photographs of the action. Based on the reports I determined that the best vantage point to photograph the fire would be along Wurzbach Parkway on top of a nearby overpass. With all the traffic shut down along Wurzbach, the best I could do was park at a nearby business and walk to the best location. I was a bit concerned over crossing the police manned street closure, more so that I would not get the photos I was looking for, but some quick walking and keen maneuvering got me on my way.
Some 1.5 miles later I was finally at the top of an overpass with a good view, and enough distance between me and the fire that I had a solid cushion of safety. The only vehicles coming by were police cruisers and SAFD trucks, and I had barely reached the top of the overpass as a truck approached. My first thought was to get off a series of images documenting the area since I knew I was going to be asked to retreat. I fired away as the truck sped by without any acknowledgement toward me; maybe I looked official.
From the overpass I could quickly see that SAFD had the fire well contained to the greenbelt area of Salado Creek. What was once huge plumes of thick smoke was now hazy cover with small swirling smoke trails. The intensity of the fire had dwindled, but the huge area it covered still presented a dangerous situation. The fire crews were working to prevent the fire from spreading across Wetmore, to the San Antonio International Airport, and Wurzbach Parkway. They had a barrier, but as we have seen in many other instances the wildfires can easily jump wide roadways and continue out of control.
I had set out from my car at 2:44pm, and by 3:20 two fire control planes arrived on the scene to drop retardant chemical to help buffer the fire from the nearby commercial buildings. In the linked KSAT video one can be seen laying a line to help ease the pressure on the firefighters. After making a preliminary review pass each plane charted its course and layed down a thick cloud of retardant. Apparently their work was done and they did not return for an additional pass.
Ten minutes later a yellow Croman SH-3H fire firefighting helicopter was on the scene. This would prove to be very entertaining and intriguing for the next hour. After each water drop the copter would fly across Wurzbach Parkway to a nearby lake and refill. The team was hitting hot spots and any locations that appeared to be flaring up with the potential to jump the boundary line. The Croman was later joined by another bucket helicopter who then overtook rounds between the lake and hotspots.
By 4:30 I was dehydrated, hot, and tired, a very slight indication of how the firefighters must have felt after working so hard to contain the fire. I must have been passed by at least 20 police cruisers, and 15 fire vehicles while on the overpass, and no one asked me to leave. It was a very worthwhile adventure and provided some interesting insight into firefighting.