Fran McAllen - Northern
Fran was born in London and raised in a village 40 kilometres north-west of London.
At the age of 19 years, Fran made the big move to Australia. Initially she lived in Perth and then moved to Port Hedland, followed by Kalgoorlie due to her work in in the gold exploration industry. During a mining slump, Fran and her husband compromised on a move to Dongara. “Dongara’s easy-going lifestyle ended up as a good fit for both of us,” says Fran.
Over 22 years ago, Fran joined Dongara-Denison Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services and Dongara Town Volunteer Bushfire Brigade as secretary and treasurer. It was not long before she became an active firefighter. “The guys asked me to join a Road Crash Rescue training course and I was hooked!” Fran says. “I love the teamwork and camaraderie, and everyone made me feel like I had gained a second family.” Her strength lies in Logistics and Administration (the jobs that the rest of the team don’t enjoy doing) but she will fill in if the crew is short.
Fran is sometimes asked about her experience as a female in an organisation where members are predominately male. “Gender has never been an issue in my fire brigade experiences, other than recognising that men tend to have greater upper body strength and women tend to have less tunnel-vision” Fran explains.
Before and after the creation of Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) ‘Bushfire Ready Program’ was implemented, Fran has been involved with community fire education especially for rural smallholdings in the rural-urban interface areas on the outskirts of town, domestic fire safety awareness and with her Brigade's contribution to local young driver’s education program.
Fran was elected as Northern Zone VFRS Association representative in 2015, after having been the Northern Zone secretary for several years. “I always find the meaty issues, discussions and negotiations with DFES fascinating. Another aspect of our executive meetings that impresses me, is just how passionate all the executive members are about their Brigades and Regions". She also discovered how different and diverse VFRS brigade issues are in different Regions, and how there is no such thing as ‘one size fits all’
Several years ago, Fran initiated online Zone Brigades meetings, because of the vast distances between the Northern Zone VFRS Brigades, which was enthusiastically taken up by nearly all the Brigades involved.
The remoteness and ingenuity of the Brigades regularly amazes Fran. Often the next back-up brigades are hours away, so volunteer firefighters must create on-the-job solutions to problems from the resources they have at hand. “Like Kalbarri VFRS having to create an air-strip for the Royal Flying Doctors by bulldozing an area at a remote homestead after a vehicle rollover,” says Fran.
Fran feels it has been an enormous privilege to be a Northern Zone VFRS Association Representative, and to put forward the views and needs of her Northern Zone Brigades to the rest of the executive committee. “There have been some robust discussions along the way because we are all passionate about representing our Brigades' needs and always put forward our Brigades’ directives ahead of our personal opinions,” she says.
In addition to her roles as an active firefighter and zone representative of the VFRS Association, Fran is a member of the Regional Peer Support Team. “My role as a VFRS Association Zone Representative has enabled me to do this peer support role effectively. With having developed personal contacts and friendships with our regional VFRS Captains, I am able to regularly check in with them to make sure their crews have the support they need after a Critical Incident in conjunction with with VFRS Association Executive Officer Ken O’Reilly and the Association’s Welfare Officer Max Osborne,” says Fran.