Hughes Springs firefighter survives tornado hit on fire station unscathed

HUGHES SPRINGS, Texas (KLTV) – It could take well into this week to clear all the downed trees and debris in one East Texas city, slammed by tornadoes this past Friday night.

Longtime residents say nothing like this had ever happened in the small community of Hughes Springs, and they are still trying to process the scope of what hit them.

Firefighters gathered at Hughes Springs volunteer fire department to salvage what records and equipment they could from the mangled I-beams and collapsed rooms of their wrecked building.

“It carries a lot of emotions with it too. This was our home for 40 years or so. Of course, it’s sad to see it like this,” said longtime volunteer firefighter John Burson.

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

Randy Jones arrived at the station Friday night, preparing chainsaws and emergency equipment expecting to help in damage areas, not knowing what was coming next.

“It just hit. The rain hit, and 10 seconds later the building started coming apart,” Randy said.

Jones somehow got underneath a vehicle, then a workbench toppled over, possibly shielding him from flying debris.

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

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

Jones eventually got out but didn’t go home.

“Same night it hit, he was out until 2 in the morning doing clean up,” Michelle said.

Offers for help are still coming in from neighboring communities. So much so that the fire chief has found himself in an unusual position.

“We’ve had departments from hundreds of miles away. Everybody’s heard our situation, offered their help. You just can’t beat that. You get so much help you’ve got to turn some away. Sad, but anybody out there offering, if we don’t take the help, please know we appreciate it,” said Fire Chief Jay Cates.

A bit of good news from Hughes Springs Police Chief Randy Kennedy concerns city hall. Thought to be a total loss, it looks now to be salvageable and able to be restored.

Vital police and city records were not damaged.

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