Park City firefighters climb above and beyond to raise money for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
On Sunday, March 8, nine Park City Fire District members will join more than 2,000 other firefighters from around the world in Washington state to raise money for cancer research and treatment through the annual Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Firefighter Stairclimb.
The event will take place in Seattle’s tallest skyscraper, the Columbia Center, at 7 a.m., said Chief Paul Hewitt.
Every 20 seconds a new firefighter hits the stairwell and attempts to climb 1,311 steps to the building’s observation deck 69 stories above the ground.
Not all who start the climb finish, according to Hewitt.
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“An average climb for us takes between 14 and 20 minutes, but there are some who take more than two hours to finish,” he said.
Each climber will wear between 45 to 60 pounds of full firefighting gear, which makes the climb more challenging, said Battalion Chief Pete Emery, who organizes the Park City segment of the climb with fundraising and garnering support from the community.
The heaviest piece of equipment is the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), which is like a scuba tank, he said.
“That’s what we all will breathe through as we climb,” Emery said.
While the gear may weigh a lot, Hewitt said the heaviest “thing” firefighters must be prepared to carry is a human being.
“We always have to be ready to pull a person out of any given fire,” he said. “So this fundraiser helps us to keep in shape.”
Emery agrees with Hewitt about the job’s physical demands.
“At Park City Fire, we consider ourselves occupational athletes, and that’s just because of the job we do,” he said. “So this is a natural event to challenge us.”
Hewitt’s draw to the annual fundraiser is personal.
“I’ve had very close friends, including Jeff Neil, a retired Salt Lake City Fire Captain, who has come down with leukemia and is now in remission,” Hewitt said. “We also have a firefighter here in Park City who is also in remission, and we have one who has testing to become a Park City Firefighter who has leukemia. I can go on and on.”
Emery has seen a growth in the number of firefighters who want to participate in the climb.
“When we first went a few years ago, there were only a select few that wanted to take on the challenge,” he said. “Now we have to limit how many people we can take, because it’s become so popular.”
The battalion chief has also seen a rise in donations.
“Last year we raised more than $3 million, and I think this year will be a bigger year,” he said.
Donations can be made by visiting llswa.org/.
Hewitt is grateful for the community’s support in this fundraiser.
“First off, the administrative control board allows us to go on excursions such as this, and that means a lot to us,” Hewitt said. “To be a Park City firefighter is an amazing privilege, because every day someone in the community thanks us for what we do.”
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