South Kitsap Fire & Rescue sending 15 firefighters to stair climb

Fourteen males, along with one female from South Kitsap Fire and Rescue are among nearly 1,800 firefighters from nearly 300 departments from all over the world, who will compete Sunday, March 9, in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s 23rd Annual Scott Firefighter Stair Climb in Seattle’s Columbia Tower, 701 5th Ave.

The event is 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, the firefighters will climb 69 flights of stairs — that’s 788 feet of vertical elevation and 1,311 steps — to support LLS’ mission to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma.

The event raised a record $1.44 million in 2013 and this year’s goal is $2 million.

Among the 15 SKFR firefighters is Fire Chief Steve Wright, who has missed the last four stair climbs because of an annual class at the national fire academy.

“I have climbed three times in the past,” said Wright. “I’m shooting for a time in the low 20- to 22-minute range, but really just to show up and finish is my goal.”

Wright, 51, said his best time in the past was 20:02.

For training, Wright has continued his swimming routines.

“I have always swam laps three days a week so my wind and cardio are OK,” said Wright. “I just spend a few months before the climb doing stairs in my helmet and turnout gear. It's a real grind. With the gear and breathing apparatus, it makes it that much more challenging.”

Wright will hit the stairs at 10:30 a.m.

Other SKFR firefighters competing (with start times) are Cody Baker (8:30 a.m.), Leif Anderson (9:20 a.m.), Robert Jones (9:20 a.m.), Mike Kehl (9:20 a.m.), Randy Eaton (9:30 a.m.), Edward Seibold (9:40 a.m.), Reagen Benedetti (9:50 a.m.), Shawn Prestegard (10:40 a.m.), Brenden Lowery (11:20 a.m.), Dave McCarthy (11:40 a.m.), Josh Scott (11:40 a.m.), Scott Gammill (2:30 p.m.), Jesse Pingeon (3:40 p.m.) and Mick Lewis (4 p.m.)

The first firefighter will enter the stairwell at 8:30 a.m. and the rest will follow at 14-second intervals. On average, top racers finish in as little as 11 minutes, while the average participant takes from 20 to 30 minutes to finish.

Last year, SKFR had three firemen who finished among the top 50 — Tim Ellis finished 41st with a time of 14 minutes, 29 seconds, Jordan Bradbury was 45th at 14:54 and Baker was 47th at 14:36. Benedetti finished 46th among 134 participants in the women’s division. SKFR has 21 firefighters who competed in the event in 2013.

In 2013, the top male finisher was Andrew Drobeck, 31, of Missoula City Fire, who finished in 10 minutes, 48 seconds. The top female finisher was Georgia Sanz Daniels, 44, of Graham Fire and Rescue, who finished in 14 22.

Because of space limitations, spectators are not allowed inside the Columbia Center during the course of the competition. There will be special viewing areas for friends and family at the Courtyard Marriot at Pioneer Square and the Renaissance.

Its sister event, The Big Climb, is scheduled for Sunday, March 23, with 6,000 civilian participants.


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