Firefighters train religiously to be able to fight fires and rescue those in need, and on March 7, over 1,500 firefighters from around the world used that training to come together in Seattle to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
The Scott Firefighter Stair Climb has become an annual event which takes place at the Columbia Center in downtown Seattle.
Firefighters raise money to be able to compete in the event where firefighters, dressed in full gear, race up 69 flights of stairs.
The Lake Stevens Journal’s own Shane Kantzer, a volunteer firefighter for the Mukilteo Fire Department and full-time graphic designer at the Journal, was one of the hundreds of firefighters taking his turn in the race to the top.
Kantzer has several personal reasons for putting on his almost 50 pounds of gear and running up the 1,311 steps. “I had a couple of personal reasons for doing this. One was because my grandfather passed away two years ago of cancer, but also for the challenge to see if I could do it,” he said. And do it he did.
This was Kantzer’s first attempt as a firefighter. Five years ago he ran it without gear, as an individual participant. This year he joined seven other Mukilteo firefighters.
Kantzer’s goal was to raise $400, he was able to surpass that goal raising $577.73. Raising money wasn’t the challenging part of the exercise.
“You’re in a corridor that’s only four feet wide and it’s packed full of other firefighters, plus in your full bunker gear,” Kantzer explained. “The money it raises is for a good cause and I surpassed my goal of $400 which was an achievement.”
The bunker gear consists of a self contained breathing apparati (SCBA), air pack, helmet and gloves. The best time by a firefighter this year was 11 minutes 1.35 seconds by firefighter Kory Burgess from Missoula, Mont. Three of the top four places went to firefighters from Missoula.
Kantzer jokes that because their able to train at a higher altitude, running up the stairs at at sea level was no problem for them,” he said.
Kantzer was able to finish the race in 21 minutes and 38 seconds, putting himself well above the middle of the pack. Getting the best time wasn’t the goal for him, he wanted to help a worthy cause while accomplishing something he’d never done before.
“I think that just being able to achieve the goal was the best part of it,” he said. “It’s one of those things I had on my bucket list that I wanted to check off. To be able to say that you climbed the Columbia Tower for a great cause, that’s pretty amazing.”