Frank’s fire pain

Headshot of Adam Poulsen
Adam PoulsenGeraldton Guardian
A still-healing, but grateful Frank Clune relaxes on his Bringo property with his dogs.
Camera IconA still-healing, but grateful Frank Clune relaxes on his Bringo property with his dogs. Credit: JUSTINE ROWE/Justine Rowe

Volunteer firefighter Frank Clune is recovering at home after sustained burns to 30 per cent of his body while battling a grass fire at his Bringo farm.

Mr Clune, 58, was mowing the lawn when he received a phone call informing him of the blaze on November 9.

Anxious to extinguish the flames quickly, he leapt into action without donning any protective gear.

“I wanted to get to the fire and try and control it before it had done too much damage,” Mr Clune explained.

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“I suppose I got caught on the wrong side of the fire.

“Before I knew it, the fire had got to me. So I ran back through it on to the burnt ground, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to outrun it.”

A veteran member of the Moonyoonooka Volunteer Bushfire Brigade, Mr Clune admitted he should have been better prepared.

“In hindsight, yes, I should have put my firefighting equipment on,” he said.

“I’ve been fighting fires for 30-odd years and the safety gear, to me, is a relatively new thing.

“Before that, you just went to fires in what you were wearing.”

Mr Clune was flown by the Royal Flying Doctor Service to Perth, where he underwent skin grafts to his lower legs and a forearm.

After about three weeks in hospital, he endured several more weeks of follow-up treatment before he could return home.

And though the worst is over, Mr Clune still must attend Geraldton Hospital regularly to have his dressings changed.

He will also have to wear pressure bandages for the next 18 months.

“The actual burns, where they’ve done the grafts, are coming on quite well,” Mr Clune said.

“It’s just that where they take the graft from, the donor sites, take a little bit longer to heal.

“But they’ve got it under control. I’m on antibiotics and things like that.”

Mr Clune said he was happy to be back home and fortunate not to have received worse injuries.

As of Sunday, the death toll for the new year fires was 13, after a man died from a cardiac arrest while helping a friend defend his home in NSW.

“You see these other incidents over east, and in WA, where lives are lost, so I’m very grateful for what’s happened to me,” Mr Clune said.

“I can’t speak highly enough of all the nurses and doctors.

“It’s good to be back in familiar surroundings — to look out the window and see sheep and cows walking past.”

Mr Clune said he would resume volunteering when able to do so.

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