The fight over firefighting in southern Bexar County will be going to court. And soon.
That became clear Tuesday night at a sometimes emotional meeting of supporters of the Sandy Oaks Volunteer Fire Department. Dozens of them showed up at what has been the department's headquarters to talk about what's going to happen now that the department is shut down.
"I don't think we as people down here should tolerate what's going on down here," Jim Clement told News 4 WOAI-TV.
He's angry that the Sandy Oaks department was shut down Monday a contract dispute with Bexar County's Emergency Services District Six.
The Commissioner of the district said Sandy Oaks violated its contract in a number of ways. She said one of the most important was the issue of nepotism, because the department's Chief and his wife both worked there.
"What happens if they go into a situation where they have to send someone in to fight a fire to take a love one out?" said Sylvia Ruiz Mendelsohn, of the Emergency Services District. "Then the question falls to the Chief at that time whether they're going to send a family member in or send someone else in. So that's where the importance of nepotism and not having that situation arises."
Supporters of the department say they would rather make sure there's someone close enough to get there to help them.
"Nepotism? These people are volunteers," said homeowner Jim Clement. "And to have what's happening to these people, it's awful. There's no reason these people should be attacked the way they're being attacked."
The Fire Department's Captain Taylor Squires told News 4 WOAI-TV that he wishes the whole thing wasn't going to court, that he would rather it go to arbitration as he says the contract required.
He also said he has nothing against the firefighters from the County's Emergency Services Districts who are now covering the Sandy Oaks area.
"Those guys, we're all brothers. They know how to fight fires just like we do. My whole deal is they don't know the area. They don't know the terrain. They don't know which way to go to get to certain calls."
Several of the people at Tuesday night's meeting said it comes down to making sure they can get help as fast as they can in an emergency. And they think Sandy Oaks can do it better than anyone else.
"We need them. We need them here," said Ofelia S. Arellano. She has heart problems and said the Sandy Oaks first responders have saved her life several times.
The department's laywer, Eddie Bravenec said Arellano is not alone. "What I hear from community members is if you have a heart attack these folks are there in two to three minutes and you live. If you have a heart attack and it's other folks provide it, they're there in 10 or 15 minutes and you're dead. I assume it's the same thing with fires."
But Ruiz Mendelsohn says firefighters with the Emergency Services District will protect the residents. "Absolutely. It is continuous, uninterrupted service."
Bravenec, the lawyer for the department, said he'll be filing for a court hearing which he expects will be held in the next week or two.
Stay tuned to News 4 WOAI-TV and woaitv.com for the latest on this story.