by Gyvel Young Witzel ©2008
After the unprecedented brush fire that scorched the hills of Hill Country Ranches (HCR) in 1988, residents were thankful for the quick response of all the area volunteer fire departments that were invloved. However, the unexpected disaster was definitely a wake-up call for all of the residents of Hill Country Ranches. Residents quickly realized that the growing community needed a dedicated fire department of its own. It wasn’t just a matter of response time, it was a matter of familiarity with the unique challenges that HCR’s terrain posed.
People took heed and by early 1989, a group of volunteer firefighters formed as the Hill Country/White Rabbit Subdivision Volunteer Firefighters. The group was placed under the umbrella of the Henly VFD where its volunteers received training and gear. However, the upstarts weren’t exactly welcomed. Subsequently, they ended up on the sidelines twiddling their thumbs, waiting to prove themselves.
At length the volunteer’s patience was rewarded and in 1993, they officially became the Henly South Volunteer Department. Shortly afterwards, an old 750 gallon tanker truck owned by the Driftwood Fire Department was presented to them. Designated Number 82, it was affectionately dubbed “Ol’ Yeller” by the group at Henly South. This was only the beginning …
What Henly South VFD really needed was a fire station that was located in HCR, a place where they could park Number 82 and a place where the volunteers could meet when organizing to go out on a call. Fortunately, Carl France offered the group a 30-year lease on his property at Lakeside Drive. At that point there was no stopping the volunteers. Within the span of one month, the Henly South VFD had its first building.
Jack Prindible recalls the enthusiasm: “Jack Kent drew up the plans for the fire station. Thor Olsen became the construction supervisor. And we would all go in and beg, borrow, and steal from suppliers. The concrete was donated … I believe it was built for $3,000.” Mike Inman remembers those heady days with a smile, “We were always down there … hanging out or having meetings.”
In 2000, the victory of building a new fire station was confirmed when a brand new brush truck, Number 84, pulled into the station. The gleaming $75,000 fire-fighting vehicle was equipped with just about everything. “It was great!” said Inman. What followed was yet another spurt of construction activity as the original building was expanded to make parking room for its new occupant.
However, changes came in 2005 when Carl France decided to place his Lakeside property on the market. He wanted to donate an acre of his land to the Henly South VFD, but this meant sub-dividing his property. At the time, HCR residents were in a heated debate over subdividing, frowning on the practice. Consequently, there was heavy opposition to splitting any property, regardless of philanthropic motives.
With the future of the Henly South VFD hanging in the balance, Inman went in search of new real estate and approached William Lynch, owner of acreage fronting 2325 (opposite the HCR entrance). Lynch was agreeable and said, “You go pick the acre out and talk to me …”
With little debate, Inman chose the acre that was located directly across the street from the HCR entrance. On March 11, 2005, the property was sold to the Henly South VFD for $4,000. Construction soon followed and the new firehouse was dedicated on October 13, 2007.
At long last, the Henly South VFD had a permanent base of operations. Today, it stands as a visible tribute to the visionary men and women who started with a dream all those years ago. Out of one of the county’s most devastating fires came a resolve for HCR to have its own fire department, a dream that came true within a span of just 18 years.
♥ Photos courtesy of the Wimberley View, Henly VFD, and Mike Inman