Sanders County firefighters are preparing to take part in a very unusual type of marathon, meant to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
The Society is a nationwide leading nonprofit that raises millions of dollars a year for research to find a cure for cancer. The organization was started in 1949 and is currently the world’s largest voluntary health organization. It has raised $1.3 billion in this goal and one of the biggest events a year that benefits them is a special marathon called the Seattle Firefighter Stair climb.
In 1991 the first Seattle Stair climb was held to benefit cancer research as a different kind of marathon specifically for firefighters.
Firefighters endure grueling training in order to perform at their best under strained circumstances and often have to put their lives on the line. The original stair climb was an extension of that effort, and a common training exercise of firefighters is to run stairs or climb ladders; exerting themselves, while wearing their gear.
This gets them conditioned to the gear’s weight and stifling nature. Pushing this a step further, firefighters from all over can now gather to test themselves in Seattle. The climb in total raises in elevation 788 vertical feet and includes 69 flights of stairs or more than 1,356 steps. Most participants are able to complete the run in 15 to 30 minutes. However the best of the best tout doing the marathon in just over 11 minutes. Currently the best time is near 10 minutes.
The event includes over 2,000 people and each participant accepted must raise a minimum of $300 for the cause. The overall goal is $3 million, but in 2018 the Seattle Stair Climb raised well above its goal. This year it is expected to be the same. There is also a $100 registration fee and the registration is quite competitive.
In fact, the two Sander County Residents from Plains say that it closed within 15 minutes after opening. Brian Reed and James Russell, of the Plains and Paradise Rural Fire departments, have attempted to make it into the competition for four years. They are both planning on doing several fundraisers to raise their $300 minimum each by the time of the run, set for March 8, 2020.
The two plan on beginning their conditioning soon by running in their gear. Each participant in the race is required to run it in full turn-out gear, including pants, boots, jacket, helmet, gloves and hood along with their SCBA, or Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus.
This includes the mask they will need to breath through along with using the air from the tank on their back. Each runner will be allowed a bottle change halfway through the climb. The gear, in total, can weight over 45 pounds.
Fire chief James Russell and Captain Brian Reed are also looking to find sponsorship for the race, hoping also to have some sponsor gear siphoned into their low-paid department.
The Plains and Paradise Rural Fire Department consists of nearly all volunteers and has a hard time finding funding. Firefighter gear can be expensive, with hoods at $125, boots are $400, helmets are $300, coats are $1,200 and the SCBA can come in at $8,500 alone.
This will be the 29th year for the Stair climb and, along with Russell and Reed, a firefighter out of Hot Springs named Lyle Fisher will be attending the climb.