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Firefighters hit the stairs in fight against diseases

Twenty-one South Kitsap Fire and Rescue firefighters are among the approximately 1,550 male and female firefighters that plan to participate in this year’s 22nd Annual Scott Firefighter Stair Climb in Seattle.

The event, slated  for Sunday, March 10, helps raise funds and awareness for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), whose mission is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.

Last year, the event raised a record $1.2 million, including $13,939 from SKFR.

“The fundraising is getting difficult,” said SKFR firefighter Tim Ellis. “It’s getting harder and harder to raise money during these tough economic times.”

The firefighters will represent nearly 300 departments from 21 states and five counties, including Canada, Germany, Switzerland and New Zealand.

The Stair Climb is one of the world’s most physically challenging competitions. Dressed in 50 pounds of “bunker gear” including helmet, fireproof coat and pants, boots, breathing apparatus and air tanks used to fight fires, these men and women will climb The Columbia Tower’s 69 flights of stairs — that’s 788 feet of vertical elevation and 1,311 steps.

The first firefighter will enter the stairwell at 9 a.m. and the rest will follow at 15-second intervals.

Firefighters participate in this event for a variety of reasons. Many climb for the mission, competition and camaraderie, while many have personal connections to the cause.

“We lost a member to Pancreatic cancer a couple of years ago, so it’s something personal to us,” said SKFR firefighter Leif Anderson, who is serving as team captain. “Together hopefully someday we can find a cure for this horrible disease.”

Anderson said there is no specific training the firefighters are going through.

“There is no specific training involved. It just normal everyday conditioning done on a regular basis.” said Anderson, who has participated in the event 10 times. “It’s certainly not an enjoyable thing.”

He said all the firefighters participate in the climb to help people with leukemia and cancer.

“We do it because of them,” Anders added.

Last year, Ellis posted the fastest time among SKFR and finished 48th overall with a time of 14:26, while Cody Baker was 59th (14:46) and Scott Hiskey was 145th (16:05).

Ellis said this will be his fourth straight year participating in the event.

“The biggest thing is managing your air tank,” Ellis said. “Most firefighters try to use only one tank going up the stair.”

Also, among the group of SKFD firefighters is a former professional bodybuilder, Ed Seibold, and a professional mixed-martial arts fighter, Reagan Beneditti. Seibold, an avid cross-trainer, is the oldest SKFR runner at age 51.

Beneditti, 34, said she hadn’t participated in the event in a couple of years, but hopes she can improve her best time of 21 minutes in her third attempt.

“The first time at the event I was happy with my time, but the second time my time was 30 second higher,” said Beneditti, a seven-year veteran firefighter.

To prepare for this weekend’s climb, Beneditti has been doing normal strengthening and “lots of stairs.”

“I’ve been working out on stair and stairs with weights,” she added.

In 2012, Missoula City Fire’s Andrew Drobeck broke the world firefighter stair climbing record in Seattle, climbing the city’s tallest building from bottom to top in 10 minutes, 38.2 seconds, in full firefighter gear. He’ll return this year to defend his title.

On average, top racers finish in as little as 11 minutes, while the average participant takes from 20 to 30 minutes to finish.

Due to space limitations, spectators are not allowed inside the Columbia Tower during the course of the competition. Friends and family are welcome to cheer on from the Seattle Marriott Waterfront Hotel, located at 2100 Alaskan Way.

For more information, or to make a donation visit www.firefighterstairclimb.org.

LLS is the world's largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. The Washington/Alaska Chapter is one of 60 local chapters across the U.S., with an additional 11 chapters in Canada.

Here are the start times for the SKFR firefighters:

Cody Baker, Battalion 1, 9 a.m.

Timothy Ellis, Battalion 1, 9 a.m.

Scott Hiskey, Battalion 3, 9:20 a.m.

Ed Seibold, Battalion 4, 9:30am

Michael Smith, Battalion 5, 9:40 a.m.

Mike Kehl, Battalion 6, 9:50 a.m.

Brenden Lowery, Battalion 7, 10 a.m.

Leif Anderson, Battalion 8, 10:10 a.m.

Robert Jones, Battalion 10, 10:30 a.m.

Mick Lewis, Battalion 10, 10:30 a.m.

Scott Gammill, Battalion 11, 10:40 a.m.

Randy Easton, Battalion 12, 10:50 p.m.

Reagen Benedetti, Battalion 23, 12:40 p.m.

Jesse Pingeon, Battalion 27, 1:20 p.m.

Josh Zurbrugg, Battalion 28, 1:30 p.m.

David Barr, Battalion 29, 1:40 p.m.

Tim Mason, Battalion 30, 1:50 p.m.

Jordan Bradbury, Battalion 31, 2 p.m.

Shawn Prestegard, Battalion 34, 2:30 p.m.

Scott Joshua, Battalion 36, 2:50 p.m.

Mark Cox, Battalion 39, 3:20 p.m.

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