Red Card Roberts |

Red Card Roberts

Amy Roberts, Record Columnist

There are two types of people who should never apply to be Park City firefighters: 1) those who are afraid of fire, and 2) those who have an affinity for elevators.

This past weekend, about 20 Park City firefighters participated in the annual Fight for Air stair climb at the Wells Fargo building in downtown Salt Lake City. And it’s not a stretch to say that the boys of the PCFD had themselves a good old-fashioned stair sweep. They won first place in the team division and claimed five of the top 10 spots as individuals.

Team captain Peter Emery credits the department’s focus on overall fitness for their success. "Firefighting is a physical job and guys in Park City really are ready for anything," Pete said. "We train differently from other departments because we often have to hike or climb a mountain to get to a rescue. So we take our fitness level seriously and we’re proud of it. The stair climb is something we look forward to each year to really push ourselves."

And just to be clear, this was not your average trot up a few steps. This was an all-out sprint up 23 flights of stairs, with all the firefighting gear on, while breathing through oxygen masks. The really good climbers made it to the top in less than five minutes and promptly collapsed and/or puked upon finishing.

Firefighter Tom Fabian described it as "running as fast as you can up 600 steps while wearing 50 pounds of gear on your back and only breathing through a very small straw."

Pete agreed, saying, "Your lungs are just on fire. You just can’t get enough air."

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So perhaps it’s fitting that this event raises money for the American Lung Association’s Utah chapter. Event organizer Andy Boyce said nearly $55,000 was raised and it will all go to local programs to help people stop smoking and support various asthma programs.

Together, Park City’s firefighters raised close to $4,000. And while raising money for charity was really satisfying, there’s was something else that was flat-out gratifying.

"The guys from Salt Lake Fire have won every year, and this year we were really focused on dethroning them," Pete said. "We trained at the Grand Summit hotel for a couple months on our days off and we always had our eye on the first place prize. As firefighters, we’re all on the same team, but we still love a good competition. Now the target is on our back."

Which is why Fire Chief Paul Hewitt already predicts next year’s stair climb will be even more competitive. "Salt Lake City fire has led the way for years, showing us how it’s done. Park City firefighters rose to the challenge and unseated the champs. Next year, all eyes will be on unseating us."

While the next Utah stair climb is still 51 weeks away, no doubt Park City firefighters will be ready. They’ll just continue to take their training one step at a time.

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Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, public-relations guru and globe-trotting thrill seeker. In a former life she worked in TV news, both as a reporter and sports anchor. She has bagged peaks on six continents, kayaked the Zambezi and Nile rivers, swam with great white sharks in South Africa and tracked mountain gorillas in Rwanda. She was once very nearly sold for 2,000 camels while traveling through Morocco.