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Fire destroys family’s home

Fire destroys family’s home
Neighbors Tracye and Billy Kaitner and Kathy Behrendt hug each other in relief July 18, after firefighters managed to contain a fire that consumed the home between their two properties.

LA VERNIA A home here has been deemed a total loss, following an early morning fire July 18.

Nine agencies, including six volunteer fire departments, the La Vernia Police Department, and the La Vernia Emergency Medical Services, responded to a structure fire at 102 Boeck Lane. Neighbors reported a loud explosion and sounds “like ammunition going off” around 7 a.m., said Officer Tracy McBlain with the La Vernia Police Department at the scene. When they saw the flames, neighbors turned hoses on the house, also hosing down their own homes to prevent the fire from spreading.

Responding firefighters arrived to find the home, owned by Raymond and Brenda Schocke, fully engulfed. No one was home at the time the fire started.

Chief Jason Scheel with the La Vernia Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) said the large number of fire departments responding was not due to the fire’s size or nature, but the lack of available firefighters during the daytime hours.

“We need approximately 20 people on the scene of a structure fire,” Scheel said. “To hit that number is always difficult.”

Local firefighters rely on other departments for mutual aid, he said. Departments responding to assist the La Vernia VFD included Stockdale, Sutherland Springs, New Berlin, St. Hedwig, and Gardendale. A Floresville Electric Light & Power System crew also attended.

“Control took a little while,” Scheel said, as crews addressed concerns with the structure’s roof.

As firefighters worked to contain the blaze, neighbors placed coolers of water and Gatorade near the firetrucks for the hardworking volunteers. Others offered comfort and safe haven for the blazing home’s immediate neighbors.

“It’s a perfect example of the community working together,” McBlain said, “everybody coming together and making a bad situation easier on those who are hurting.”

Edwin Baker, coordinator of the Wilson County Health and Public Safety Office and the county’s fire marshal, confirmed the La Vernia Police Department had requested an investigation by the state fire marshal’s office.

Sgt. Danny Pitts with the La Vernia Police Department said the state investigators attended the scene July 19, and ruled the cause of the fire “undetermined.”

The property is no longer an investigation scene, Pitts said. He also confirmed the property owner “was a reloader” and the sounds neighbors heard likely were caused by ammunition discharging in the fire.

The Schocke family, who immediately attended the scene, assured community members that they have places to stay and are not in immediate need of anything.

Scheel said although recent rains have diminished fire concerns somewhat, residents should always maintain their properties to minimize fire risks. Keeping grass and grounds well-manicured for the first 30 feet around a structure, such as a home, and “clean and clear” up to 80 feet away can help keep structure fires from spreading, he said.

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