On March 10th 17 members of the Valley Regional Fire Authority participated in 28TH Annual LLS Scott Firefighter Stairclimb in Seattle. “We are happy that all 17 of our members who signed up were able to participate in the climb,” said Valley Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 1352 Executive Board Member Colton Fogelberg. “More importantly, our team of 17 members has raised well over $18,000!” Donations can be made to the team until the end of March.
Breaking VRFA Records
Held at the Columbia Tower in Seattle, the LLS Scott Firefighter Stairclimb is the world’s largest on-air stair climb competition. The stairclimb is open only to career or volunteer firefighters. It takes 69 floors, 1,356 steps, and 788 ft. vertical elevation gain to reach the finish line at the Sky View Observatory on the 73rd floor. To successfully complete to climb, participants must complete the entirety of the course while wearing full turnout gear, while on-air.
Team Captain Ryan Simpson was thrilled with the VRFA’s participation this year. “This is the largest team since I’ve been the captain and I’m guessing ever in the history of the VRFA and Auburn Fire Department. [Additionally], we are currently sitting at over $18,000 which is also a team record. I am looking forward to a bigger, better, and faster 2020 stairclimb.”
First and Last Stairclimb
The 2019 stairclimb was Deputy Chief Kevin Olson’s first. It will also be his last. “I have never done the stairclimb, and I felt like I needed to before I retired,” shared Olson.
Olson trained three to four times a week in the months before the climb. He practiced the climb using the stairs at the Murano Hotel in Tacoma. “I know several used the Murano [to train],” said Olson. “The Murano is 25 floors, and the elevators are fast so it is about as good a training site as you will find. “[Three] times up is 75 floors, which is about the distance of the Columbia Tower climb. The rest in between, about a minute and a half, definitely helps you recover a little though.”
Before the climb, Olson felt good about his training. His goal was to complete the climb in 18 minutes. “I feel like I am prepared as I can be, but it is going to be very challenging. In the end, regardless of my time I have raised almost $2,000 to help fund blood cancer research, that is the true value. Looking forward to a fun day and supporting the other 17 members of the VRFA team.”
Friendly Competition for Charity
“The Scott Firefighter Stairclimb is really about the funds raised to help support the fight against blood cancers. But as firefighters tend to be competitive and enjoy the physical challenge of the climb,” said Fogelberg. “Ascending the 69 floors in full gear is a grind for even the most physically fit. Our team captain, Ryan Simpson, led our group with a time of 16 minutes and 30 seconds.”
1 16:30 Ryan Simpson
2 17:07 Andy Cook
3 17:18 Travis Schade
4 ( 17:22) Steven Rierson
5 ( 19:14) Jerry Montiel
6 ( 19:49) Justin Erickson
7 ( 19:53) Cory Wallace
8 ( 20:38) Scott Masters
9 ( 21:37) Guy Smith
10 ( 21:56) Kevin Olson
11 ( 22:27) Blake Laidlaw
12 ( 23:25) Gary Barker
13 ( 25:18) Colton Fogelberg
14 ( 27:12) Andrew Mattheis
15 ( 27:26) Darrel Normandy
16 ( 28:56) Aaron Martin
17 ( 32:12) Matthew Kinnee
Olson completed the climb four minutes slower than he had hoped. The LLS Scott Firefighter Stairclimb explains that this “physically challenging competition is representative of the struggle that blood cancer patients endure. [That] every step to the top serves as a reminder that there is still much work left to be done in funding and finding cures.”
As a testament to the challenge of the climb, Olson shared that the climb “did not go as well as I had planned. I did not have my “A” game today, and the stairs won. I was about four minutes slower than I thought I would be. And I actually had to have some fluids put in me afterward to help me recover. [Felt fine after,] but it was a grind all the way.”
Though he fell short of his target time, Olson remained optimistic. “I would do it again tomorrow if I could. The support from our friends and family was awesome, and I believe LLS is going to surpass their goal for 2.5 Million this year which is awesome!”
Dedicated to the Climb, Dedicated to the Cause
Several of VRFA members participate in the climb each year, but the dedication of one of the team members is incredible. 2019 marked the 20th consecutive year that Gary Barker participated in the Scott Firefighter Stairclimb. When asked about the stairclimb, Gary said “Originally it was about fitness and competition. Now I do it for the sole purpose of raising money for cancer. I’ll keep going as long as I can.”
Most of our team had not begun their careers in the fire service when Barker started participating in the stairclimb,” said Fogelberg. “Some were even in elementary school! We are proud to have such a dedicated member on our team.”
It is not too late to donate to the VRFA Team.
The 2019 LLS Scott Firefighter Stairclimb had about 2,000 firefighters participating. Last year the VRFA ranked 64th. In this year’s climb, they advanced to 56th place. So far this year the stairclimb raised over $2.5 million for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS)! This year’s goal is $3 million. Donations are being accepted until the end of March, so get your contribution in for the VRFA team!