As tubers hit the San Marcos River, first responders gear up for busy summer


SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — While the temperatures are heating up across Central Texas, so is business on the San Marcos River.

After a year of unknowns and closures, many companies are expecting even more people to hop on a tube and float the river.

Brenda Speck and her friends have made a tradition out of floating the river, and after having to social distance for more than a year, they are now reconnecting.

“We are ready to go,” Speck said. “We are just ready to get out and have some good girl time.”

Mark Jalufka, who runs Lions Club Tube Rentals, says when COVID-19 started, the river fell silent, but conversations and laughter have filled the air once again.

“The river to me is kind of a life force,” Jalufka said. “People have been stuck inside for a long time, and none of them appreciate it, and we expect many people to be here this summer.”

While tubing companies are expecting a busy summer, so too is Martindale Fire and Rescue. The volunteer fire department is situated right down the street from the San Marcos River, and so far, they have been busy.

“So you can see this is the five miles of river we cover,” said Martindale Fire Chief Chris Germer. “This first holiday weekend we had 21 calls for service over four days,” Germer said.

The calls range from water rescues and crashes to medical emergencies.

Typically, they see about 10,000 people on their stretch of river each weekend.

“We have ramped up our staffing,” Germer said. “We have three if not more firefighters that are rescue certified and EMT certified that are on the river from 1-9 p.m. that are dedicated to run these types of calls.”

The all-volunteer force is now 15 members strong and with an arsenal of ATVs and watercraft, they will be watching and waiting to lend a hand.

This year because of how busy things could be, Martindale Fire and Rescue has signed a contract to work with some of the area tube rental companies.

“We do have a contract this year to pay our volunteers to staff the river,” Germer said. “Martindale Fire is a full-volunteer fire department … we don’t get paid as firefighters, but in the contract are able to staff down there and reimburse our guys a little bit.”

When it comes to safety on the river, seconds matter. Germer says his crew will be ready.

“A quick response is vital to life safety in those situations,” Germer said.

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