Dubbo medal recipient Eric Shanks encourages others to volunteer

Eric Shanks
Eric Shanks

A newly-honoured and veteran volunteer firefighter at Dubbo is recommending the activity to others.

Eric Shanks values the opportunities he’s had to meet people and serve the community as a member of the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS).

A group captain in the Orana zone and volunteer of more than 50 years, he was awarded the Australian Fire Service Medal in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Mr Shanks, a farmer by occupation, said he would certainly encourage other community members to volunteer with the NSW RFS.

“It’s got its rewards and it’s nice to do good for people in the community, and the friendships you make,” he said.

“Since I’ve become a group captain I’ve met a lot of people down towards Orange and people I’d never have met if I hadn’t been in the Rural Fire Service and they’re all similar people to me, they’re farmers and they’re happy to get out and do something for their community, which is really great.

“We’re just always looking for volunteers if people contact the RFS in Dubbo or if they want to talk to me.

“You get trained and you get given good equipment and pretty well looked after, so anyone wants to join, we’d love to have them because we can always do with more people.”

The citation for Mr Shanks’s medal notes he has served in numerous brigade positions, including holding the position of captain for more than 24 years.

He was called into action during the 2007 Goonoo S44 fire, which lasted for 10 days and destroyed more than 16,000 hectares of national park.

As a member of the senior management team he provides “valuable input on management and development across the team”.

“He is well respected by volunteers and members of the community and is a person who the volunteers are willing to follow and seek advice from,” the citation said.

“Mr Shanks is a great example to volunteers, providing a positive influence to al and after more than 50 years service continues to be a very active member of the NSW Rural Fire Service.”

Mr Shanks has seen many changes in fighting bushfires during the decades.

“We’ve gone from 200-litre drums with a pump put on the back of the truck to the very modern tankers we have today,” he said.

“That’s for sure, a huge change, about 4000 litres on those tankers, compared to what we used to carry in a couple hundred litre drums.”

Those 200-litre drums feature in one of his first memories of being part of the effort to tackle a blaze.

Growing up on the land, and father Frank being the first captain of the Terramungamine brigade, it’s little surprise Mr Shanks made an early start.

“Dad used to go away in the car, go to the fire first because he was the captain, and arrange people as they came,” he said.

“He told me to bring the truck.

“So I backed the truck up to the stand and filled the six 200-litre drums of water and pulled the pump on and tore down the road.

“Arrived on scene and got yelled at by my father for not putting the lid on the drums because water slopped all over the truck everywhere, but that’s what it’s like when you’re a 13-year-old kid, you’re just full of enthusiasm.”

And it didn’t dampen his enthusiasm - he signed up to the fire brigade when he reached the official entry age of 16, the start of more than five decades of volunteering.