Hughes Springs firefighter survives unharmed tornado at fire station

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HUGHES SPRINGS, Texas (KLTV) — It could take the better part of this week to clean up all the downed trees and debris in an East Texas town hit by tornadoes last Friday night.

Longtime residents say nothing like this has ever happened in the small community of Hughes Springs, and they’re still trying to figure out the full extent of what has hit them.

Firefighters gathered at the Hughes Springs Volunteer Fire Department to salvage whatever documents and equipment they could from the mangled I-beams and collapsed rooms of their destroyed building.

“It also conveys a lot of emotions. It was our home for about 40 years. Of course it’s sad to see him like this,” said longtime volunteer firefighter John Burson.

Unbeknownst to us at the time of the storm, there was a firefighter at the back of the fire department building when the tornado hit.

Randy Jones arrived at the station on Friday evening, preparing chainsaws and emergency equipment in the hope of helping in the damaged areas, unsure of what was to follow.

“It just hit. The rain came down and 10 seconds later the building started collapsing,” Randy said.

Jones somehow got under a vehicle and then a workbench tipped over, possibly shielding him from flying debris.

“I was trying to hang on where I wasn’t going in the air,” he said.

“He called us as soon as he was able to pull himself free to tell us to take cover,” said Michelle, Randy’s wife. “When he got to his phone, he said, ‘take cover, take cover.’ It was terrifying not knowing if he was really okay, he was still stuck in the building.

Jones eventually walked out but did not return home.

“The very night he hit, he was out until 2 a.m. cleaning up,” Michelle said.

Offers of help continue to pour in from neighboring communities. So much so that the fire chief found himself in an unusual position.

“We had departments hundreds of kilometers away. Everyone heard our situation, offered to help. You can’t beat that. You receive so much help that you have to refuse it. It’s sad, but whoever offers, if we don’t take the help, please know that we appreciate it,” Fire Chief Jay Cates said.

Good news from Hughes Springs Police Chief Randy Kennedy is about City Hall. Considered a total loss, it now appears to be salvageable and capable of being restored.

Police and city vital records were not damaged.

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