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‘We lost a guardian': COVID-19 kills Oklahoma fire chief

Locust Grove Fire Chief Ray Vaughn served with the department for over 38 years


Kaitlyn Alanis
McClatchy Washington Bureau

LOCUST GROVE, Okla. — An Oklahoma community has lost one of its local heroes to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We lost a guardian,” Locust Grove Mayor Jason Williams said, according to the Tulsa World. “You meet good people every day. Then you meet exceptional people. Ray was an exceptional person.”

He was speaking of Ray Vaughn, 65, who died Monday following his fight with the coronavirus.

“It is with (an) extremely heavy heart that we have to make this announcement,” the Locust Grove Fire Department shared on Facebook. “Ray Vaughn, our beloved Fire Chief has passed away.”

He served with the department for over 38 years, the post says, and was chief for more than eight years.

Ray was a husband of 27 years to Deeana Barton, a dad to three children and had seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, according to his obituary.

“Ray loved his family dearly and especially treasured the time he spent with his grandchildren,” his obituary says. “His dedication, love, laughter, and willingness to serve will be greatly missed for many years to come.”

His family says he was “always the first to help someone in need” and loved to fish, build cars and vacation along the coast. He also operated Vaughn’s Wrecker Service.

“He may have been a wrecker driver for a living, but he was a firefighter at heart,” firefighter Kyle Cagle said, according to KOTV. “We’re going to miss him a lot ...”

On Monday, the town’s hero was brought “home” as community members lined main street in his honor, the Locus Grove Funeral Home shared on Facebook.

Video from the Locust Grove Fire Department shows he was escorted by fire trucks, sheriff’s department vehicles and tow trucks.

“It was really amazing and heart-wrenching at the same time,” Cagle said, according to KOTV. “Knowing that there was that many people that loved our chief.”

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