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Public Safety Officials Plan To Keep Fiesta Fun And Safe

Stuart Seal
The Fiesta Commission

Fiesta gets underway tomorrow and the Boston Marathon bombings have San Antonio police and firefighters strengthening their presence to make sure people stay safe during the 11-day celebration.

Fiesta is San Antonio's way to honor the heroes of the Alamo and Battle of San Jacinto and it all started in 1891 with a hugely successful Battle of Flowers Parade.

Though the years since have been full of fun and festivities, there was one incident that changed everything.

In 1979 a man peppered parade goers with his 12 gauge shotgun and a military-style semi-automatic weapon. Three people, including the gunman, died that day, and several people were seriously wounded.

So where does that leave San Antonio considering what happened in Boston?

"I can certainly understand, in light of what happened in Boston a couple of days ago, why folks might wonder a little bit because we have big crowds at Fiesta. But they should know that our police department, our local law enforcement entities are very well aware of it and they're working hard with beefed up security to make sure that it's a safe event," said Mayor Julián Castro.

Castro said people should live their lives and let those who are called to protect people to do their jobs.

Police Chief William McManus said large events are difficult to control, but there will be appropriate security at entrances and plenty of security inside.

"You won't be able to go 10 feet without seeing a police officer," McManus said. "The main message is that we are prepared and ready to respond."

Fire Chief Charles Hood, who responded to the Oklahoma City bombing nearly 20 years ago, said police officers and firefighters work together in a unified command. He said his force will be strategically placed.

"We're the main resources going to come in and treat, whether it's a hazardous situation, a bomb, a chemical, and then you have a multi-casualty incident. So we're going to be the lead agency in a situation like that so we have to have our folks strategically located," Hood said.

McManus said extra help from departments surrounding San Antonio will be on hand to help keep an eye on things.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.