HELPING HAND: Queensland Reds players Bryce Hegarty and Brandon Paenga-Amosa (far right), with Barry Dyer of the Widgee Rural Fire Brigade and his wife Jenny Dyer last month. Photo: Contributed
HELPING HAND: Queensland Reds players Bryce Hegarty and Brandon Paenga-Amosa (far right), with Barry Dyer of the Widgee Rural Fire Brigade and his wife Jenny Dyer last month. Photo: Contributed

How these Qld sport celebrities are helping fireys

RUGBY UNION : When the devastating fires wreaked havoc at Black Snake and Upper Thorneside threatening properties, displacing cattle and destroying hectares and hectares of land last month, rural firefighters had another problem to contend with - telecommunications issues.

Now the Widgee Rural Fire Brigade is getting a helping hand from the Gympie Hammers Rugby Union Club and the Queensland Reds, who are pitching in with a month-long fundraiser kicking off at the annual New Year's Eve celebrations at Nelson Reserve starting from 5pm.

Sponsored by Gympie Regional Council, Bendigo Bank Gympie and GJ Gardner, the event will feature former Australia's Got Talent winner and 2020 Eurovision contender Jack Vidgen and will involve raffle tickets to win memorabilia donated by Queensland Reds.

Dan and Leanne Sullivan of Sullivan Livestock kick started the fundraiser with a generous contribution.

President Jason McPherson said the club was hoping to raise more than $10,000 to rural firefighters in the region.

"Recently when Queensland Reds players visited Gympie, we got to have a morning with Widgee rural volunteers and learn the challenges they face to keep us safe," he said.

"We were informed that at a recent Black Snake bushfire, their communication system was found wanting and talking to the 30 ground crews on the fire front could only be done by relaying messages up over the mountain through other mobile vehicles.

McPherson said it was important that the club helped out wherever it could.

"We have this motto in our club, 'be the one to make a difference' and we like to teach the younger ones that rugby union is more than just playing 80 minutes, it's about helping the community," he said. "I don't know how the rural firefighters do it on a weekly basis, they are always willing to help and serve the community.'

Widgee Rural Fire Brigade secretary and incident controller Fiona Newcombe said she was very appreciative of the help being offered.

"With the Black Snake fires we had to relay messages through three or four different channels before we could get the information needed to the relevant crew, which made things hard," she said.

"Thank you just doesn't seem like enough. We're grateful to the Gympie community for getting behind it. Once we've got the money to improve our telecommunications, the extra money raised will go to other rural brigades that need it."

Gympie Regional Council will hold a meeting at the Town Hall today at 11am to find out if the fireworks display will be cancelled and instead replaced with a laserlight show for the New Year's Eve party.