Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

September 24, 2013

Community mourns loss of fire chief


Mineral Wells Index

— By LIBBY CLUETT



The City of Mineral Wells, firefighting community, family, friends and many more are mourning the loss of Mineral Wells Fire Chief Robin Allen.

It seems those who saw her at Thursday night’s bonfire and Friday’s homecoming pep rally were shocked when they heard the news of her death – for many this came after Friday night’s football game.

Mineral Wells Volunteer Fire Department First Assistant Chief Lynn Reasoner said he did not know the details but noted that Allen had been dealing with health issues for a while. He added that she seemed to be doing well and “was expecting to come back to work in a few weeks.”

Allen, 50, had served the City of Mineral Wells as fire chief since 2004, but City Manager Lance Howerton noted, “She had been a paid staff since 1983, so she had been with us for 30 years.”

Allen’s sister, DeeAnn Deal, said the 1981 Mineral Wells High School graduate, started as a volunteer in local emergency medical services before she was hired on.

Howerton called Allen a “pioneer, being a female in the fire/EMS service [30 years ago] and as one of few female fire chiefs in Texas.”

“Robin contributed on a lot of different levels – professionally and on a personal level,” said Howerton. “She was very good at what she did and was very dedicated and gave to this community – and basically gave a lifetime of service.”

“Her family has been a big part of this community,” he added. “Everyone who knew Robin liked her. It will be a very difficult thing to move forward without her both as the city organization, our fire and EMS department, as well as the entire community.”

Howerton said the community had a “unique situation” and benefitted from Allen serving in the city’s fire and EMS department and her husband, Garry, serving as a Texas Department of Public Safety senior trooper.

“Both were in public service and known throughout the community and very much appreciated,” Howerton said, adding, “Robin did a tremendous job. She was very capable and well trained and knowledgeable. She was always very professional. The department has grown during her tenure. I don’t think we could ask for anyone better to do that job.”

“This was an unbelievable event,” he said of receiving a call sometime around 7 p.m. Friday night, informing him of Allen’s death.

He said Allen was in the city offices Thursday and Friday and spoke to him on Thursday. He said they “talked about the fact that she was much improved and was excited that she was coming back to work. She looked good and energetic and looked like everything was heading in right direction. And then get the news [Friday night].”

“It’s just a tragedy,” Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer told the Index.

He said while Allen’s death was likely from natural causes, her body was sent for autopsy, primarily because her death was unwitnessed and to “get closure on what the problem was.”

Reasoner said he has been coordinating a ’round-the-clock firefighter’s vigil for Allen.

“We have a tradition in the fire service that someone stays with the body 24 hours a day until the funeral,” Reasoner explained, adding that local departments did this with the late MWVFD Chief and Palo Pinto County Fire Marshall Steve Perdue, who died in 2011.

He is setting up 2-hour shifts for emergency personnel to stand vigil in uniform beside her body until her funeral.

The firefighters’ vigil extends beyond the county limits.

Reasoner said firefighters escorted Allen’s body to Dallas Friday night, for autopsy, stayed with her overnight and returned with her Saturday afternoon.

He said several Metroplex-area fire departments assisted with the return escort, following in their vehicles through Dallas, Arlington, Fort Worth and Weatherford. He said when the escort arrived on the western edge of Weatherford, Cool, Garner, Greenwood and Millsap VFDs fell in line to help escort her to the edge of Mineral Wells. At the Lake Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway bridge, Reasoner said city and volunteer departments escorted her through town to Baum-Carlock-Bumgardner, which he said is handling the funeral arrangements.

In addition to her crew of firefighters and emergency medical staff, cohorts and friends, Allen leaves behind her husband and three athletic children – two sons and a daughter, between the ages of 16 and 20.

MWVFD requests that those who want to share food, flowers or any expression of condolence with the Allen family, please take them, between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to the Steve Perdue Training Center, south of the downtown fire station. The department will take the items to the family.

Allen’s funeral is set for Friday, 10 a.m., at First Baptist Church of Mineral Wells. A visitation is scheduled for Thursday, 6-8 p.m. at the church, located at 100 S.W. 4th Ave.