An Okotoks firefighter was carrying some extra weight to go along with his approximately 60 pounds of gear he wore as he climbed 55-storeys – some 1,204 steps last weekend.
Firefighter Ryan Kaiser also carried an extra fire helmet and a slightly heavier heart.
“This year I carried the second helmet with me because it has the names of Captain Darcy Smith and Captain Rich Befus on it and I wanted to carry their memory up the stairs with me,” Kaiser said. “By carrying this on my back, I felt it was a way of giving their memory some respect.”
Kaiser was one of five Okotoks firefighters who participated in the Firefighter Stair-climb Challenge at Calgary’s Bow Building on Sunday.
The climb is done in full gear, minus a balaclava and gloves to prevent overheating.
The Okotoks firefighters were joined by firefighters from across Western Canada, including Turner Valley and the MD of Foothills departments. Proceeds go to Wellspring Calgary, which provides programs, resources and support to people living with cancer along with their families and caregivers.
It’s a good match for the firefighters as there are 11 presumptive cancers that are a recognized occupational hazard of the firefighter’s job — 100 per cent of the event proceeds support firefighters and citizens in our community fighting cancer.
Smith died of cancer in the late 1990s and Befus in 2014 (it is not known if their cancers were related to firefighting).
Kaiser participated in the event last year, he was a bit slower on Sunday.
“It’s amazing how that little extra weight (of the helmet) adds up,” Kaiser said with a laugh. “It changed the dynamic of my time.”
He said he took his first break on the 21st floor and then hit the wall later on.
“I had to push it for the last five floors,” Kaiser said. “It is hard but worth it. I am going to go home and take a nap.”
Okotoks firefighter Kevin Murray pushed the whole way. The third-year firefighter clocked in at 14 minutes and 12 seconds – ranking 35th out of the 512 participants.
“I made it to the top and I am going to feel it for the rest of the day and probably tomorrow,” Murray said. “I wanted to do better than last year and I did.
“I am just proud to represent the department and Okotoks.”
He wasn’t quite so proud about seven minutes into the run.
“While I was doing this, I was thinking: ‘Why do I do this? Why do I do this?…” he said with a chuckle.
Turner Valley firefighter Amanda Baxter completed the climb for the second-time in three years.
“I think I did a lot better than I did the first time,” Baxter said, while getting a hug from her baby Myles after the climb. “It’s important for me. Cancer does run in my family and what better way to raise money than climb a big tower?”
She completed her run in just over 30 minutes. And just like fighting a fire she did it with the help of her fellow firefighters in Turner Valley.
“I was nervous and when I hit the bottom stair I said: ‘It’s too late now, you can’t look back,” she said. “I had to stop, but I had Trevor Doublet stay with me: ‘Keep on going, just two more flights.’
“But, there was no quitting or turning back.”
Doublet said it was important to support his friend.
“I’m not going to leave her back there — it was important that we finished together,” Doublet said.
She missed the stair-climb in 2016 as she was giving birth to Myles.
“He was actually pretty easy,” Baxter said of the labour. “I thought this (the stair-climb) was harder.”
In total approximately $339,500 was raised in support of Wellpsring. To check out the full results and times go to give.wellspringcalgary.ca