Firefighters survive tornado, city receives new storm shelter

Firefighters survive tornado, city receives new storm shelter
Fire station 1/Photo credit: WDAM

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - An EF-3 tornado destroyed Hattiesburg Fire Station 2 in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The crew of engine 2 had just returned from a medical call a short time before the twister struck.

"We got back in the station about 2:00 or 2:30 I guess and laid down to go to sleep," Hattiesburg Fire Lt. Barry Collins said.

Collins said he knew they were under a tornado watch for majority of the morning.

"The tornado warning came across the radio we got up and walked to the front, we walked outside to see what was going on and pretty quickly we heard it… we heard the storm coming, the classic freight train," Collins said.

With that loud noise, things turned for the worse.

"We actually stayed in the station for a minute, the structure felt like it was kind of shaking a lot, we thought about the trees, the big trees around the station," Collins said. "We thought we might be safer inside the fire truck, so we climbed into the fire truck and just had barely closed the doors when the tornado actually hit the building."

The tornado took the roof off the bay, shattered windows, ripped off the bay doors and broke windows out of the fire truck where they were hiding.

"Even though we were hit, and our truck couldn't be moved, we jumped out and went in to rescue mode and started making our way down Arledge Street to help victims," Collins said.

With that story of survival, one good Samaritan showed up on Wednesday in the Hub City with a generous gift, a tornado safe room.

"I heard about this damage and all on the news, and I wanted to do something to help out the guys in the fire department," said Israel Martinez,Torshel owner.

Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree, Ward 4 City Councilwoman Mary Dryden and department officials gathered today at Station 1 to accept the gift.

"These guys are on the front line; the fire department is always the front lines helping people so we saw the need and that's why we decided to donate a large safe room," Martinez said.

The safe room, which costs roughly $6,000, is built with reinforced steel, and can hold roughly 10 to 12 people and withstand an EF-5 tornado.

It will be placed at Station 1, since it is one of the remaining stations without a safe room.