Digital Access

Digital Access
Access from all your digital devices and receive breaking news and updates from around the area.

Home Delivery

Home Delivery
Local news, prep sports, Chicago sports, local and regional entertainment, business, home and lifestyle, food, classified and more! News you use every day! Daily, Daily including the e-Edition or e-Edition only.

Text Alerts

Text Alerts
Choose your news! Select the text alerts you want to receive: breaking news, prep sports scores, school closings, weather, and more. Text alerts are a free service from, but text rates may apply.

Email Newsletters

Email Newsletters
We'll deliver news & updates to your inbox. Sign up for free e-newsletters today.

Burn victim slowly recovering

25-year-old firefighter undergoing skin grafts, is heavily sedated, mother says

OREGON – Recovery is slow but steady for a 25-year-old Oregon man severely burned 6 weeks ago.

Thomas Jones remains in intensive care at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, where he has been hospitalized since he was burned in a garage explosion and fire on Aug. 20.

“He’s coming along,” said his mom, Penny Jones.

Monday, he was able to wave to his parents and fiancee Chelsy Janssen during a brief time when he was awake. When his father, Mick, gave him a thumbs up, Thomas returned it, Penny said.

“That was the most we’ve been able to communicate with him,” she said.

Doctors keep him heavily sedated much of the time, she said.

The volunteer firefighter was using a torch to cut the straps holding the gas tank on a demolition derby car in the garage behind the house he shares with his parents when the explosion occurred, fire officials said. 

It set fire to the garage, which was destroyed, and to the house, which was heavily damaged.

Thomas was engulfed in flames and burned over 85 percent of his body.

Janssen, 22, suffered second-degree burns trying to help him. She was released from the hospital on Aug. 25.

He has had two skin grafts, one successful and the second, a week ago, partially so. The second one will be finished in a couple of weeks, his mom said.

“His shoulders, arms, and back are all good. The skin is growing back,” she said. “They’re done with skin grafts on his right leg.”

His left leg, where the most severe burns occurred, has not yet been grafted because of infection.

Thomas has at least 4 more months at OSF. “They told us 120 days, and this is day number 42,” Penny said. “He will be in intensive care until he leaves the hospital.” 

After his release, he will go to a rehabilitation center in Rockford or Chicago for physical therapy. 

Loading more