The seventh annual Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge will take place from May 2 -15 this year. This challenge is in support of Wellspring Calgary to raise money and awareness for firefighters and all citizens living with cancer.
While most people know that firefighting is a dangerous calling, many people do not realize that cancer is the top cause of line-of-duty firefighter deaths. The chronic exposure to heat, the byproducts of fires, and the toxic smoke from burning plastics, chemicals and composite materials put firefighters at a higher risk for certain types of cancer than the general public. There are 16 presumptive cancers that are recognized as occupational hazards associated with firefighting.
The proceeds from this event help Wellspring Calgary provide free programs and services to firefighters and others living with cancer. In addition, Wellspring Canada gifts a portion of the proceeds to support the Firefighters Assistance Charitable Society (FACS).
Before the pandemic, hundreds of firefighters from around the world would come together in Calgary, Alberta, for the Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge. The challenge is to climb to the top of The Bow building in their full bunker gear, complete with SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus). The full firefighter gear adds an extra 80 – 100 lbs to the wearer for the 1204 step climb to the top of the building, an elevation of 774 ft.
Due to the pandemic, this year will be the second year that this event has been held virtually. Participants are required to climb 1204 steps or 774 vertical feet for the virtual challenge. This year, for the first time, the virtual event is open to whoever would like to join and participate, but firefighters are required to make the climb in their full gear.
Three of Swan Hills’ local firefighters will be joining the challenge this year, Fire Chief Jamie Molnar and fire department members Clint Baker and Clayton MacDonald. On May 15, the Swan Hills Fire Department will be partnering with the Whitecourt Fire Department for this challenge for the second year in a row. The firefighters will be climbing up and down the stairs of Whitecourt’s pedestrian train crossing 28 times, with only the trips up the stairs counting to reach their goal. Two firefighters will climb on each side of the pedestrian crossing at a time so that four firefighters can perform their challenge at once.
The Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge holds deep, personal meaning to the Swan Hills Fire Department members as a way to honour former Swan Hills Fire Chief Chris Thomsen in his ongoing battle with cancer.
Those who would like to support our Swan Hills Fire Department members can do so through the Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge website (calgarystairclimb.com) by clicking the “Donate” button at the top of the screen. Donations can be made to individual participants, teams, or directly to the cause. This event has raised $1.67 million since it began in 2015, with over 2000 firefighters participating from across Canada and from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Denmark.
Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette