In small portion of Bexar County’s North West side resided a small rural community of farmers and ranchers. This small settlement was being watched over by the Helotes Area Volunteer Fire Department beginning in 1959. This department relied solely on the locals who volunteered their time to protect those in their community. This department helped protect not only those who lived in Helotes but those who lived in the surrounding areas as well.
As time went on the city of San Antonio started rapidly spreading their extra-territorial jurisdiction. This meant that San Antonio would hold authority in these surrounding communities. As the ETJ started spreading closer to the Helotes area, the citizens of Helotes decided to incorporate in 1981 becoming a city. However, as Helotes incorporated, there were surrounding areas that did not get incorporated within the new city limits.
Growth in this area of Bexar County continued to grow and in the early 2000’s subdivisions started getting built within these pockets of land that were unincorporated back in 1959. These new subdivisions continued to be watched over by the HAVFD. However, the HAVFD was not receiving funds from taxes to maintain their equipment or station.
In 2003, the city of Helotes created the Helotes Fire Department with paid firefighters. Shortly after in 2006, the city voted to discontinue service to the unincorporated areas due to lack of funding. This left a large population without protection.
ESSO To The Rescue
Longtime rural residents, faced with no fire protection, formed Emergency Services Support Organization (ESSO) at a concerned citizens meeting on January 4, 2006. Bexar County Commissioners were brought into the skirmish and a contract between Bexar County and Helotes, in March, extended rural service until December 31, 2006 with two major stipulations: 1) Generate at least $75,000 in contributions to the fire department, and 2) Insure passage of an ESD issue in the next election. Members of ESSO were already working on these two issues before the contract was formulated. As a result contributions exceeded the contract amount and the ESD issue passed with 98.16% of the voters voting for ESD7.
Emergency Services District No. 7
ESD 7 was formed in the summer of 2006. A board of five volunteers was formed and were tasked with two objectives: (1) Contract with Helotes Fire Department (HFD) for short-term coverage, and (2) build a fire department from the ground up.
A three year contract with HFD was quickly created for short term coverage of the area, and the board was able to turn the attention to the elephant in the room, creating a new fire department. With restrictions set forth by Bexar County on the amount of debt an ESD can accumulate the board had to be creative in constructing the new department. Along with finding the location for two stations, both stations had to be outfitted with: a fire engine, a tender, and a brush truck; along with gear for the firefighters such as: bunker gear, SCBAs, hoses, nozzles, radios, and pagers.
Creation of District 7 Fire & Rescue
With the hard work of the board District 7 Fire & Rescue was created. Starting with a mixed department of: full-time, part-time, and volunteer firefighters; the department was ready to protect the people of Northwest Bexar County.
Since the creation of the department over ten years ago the department has gone through dramatic changes and growth. Adding multiple trucks to our fleet, adding emergency medical transport to our services, and increasing our staffing to better accommodate our community. District 7 Fire & Rescue continues to grow and improve due to the passion and work ethic of our board and every firefighter that has worked for our department.