On May 7, five firefighters from Stettler will don their full firefighting gear and climb 1,204 steps to the top of the BOW Building as part of the Calgary Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge.
The stairclimb challenge is an annual fundraiser benefiting Wellspring Calgary, a support centre for firefighters and others affected by cancer.
The BOW Building is the tallest building in western Canada, and its geographic location makes this stariclimb the highest firefighter stairclimb in the world.
This is the first year that a team from Stettler will be competing in the challenge, and the team has been working hard to prepare for the event.
Since January, they firefighters have been meeting at the Stettler Recreation Centre at 5:30 a.m. two days a week to practice their stair climbing.
The 1,204 steps of the BOW Building work out to about 60 trips up the Recreation Centre stairs, explained firefighter Steve Maruk.
Climbing 775 vertical feet, the height of the BOW Building, is a challenge on any occasion, but this climb will present some additional challenges for firefighters, according to Maruk.
“It’s a glass building so I imagine it’s going to be like an oven in there,” Maruk said. “Dealing with the heat in the bunker gear is the biggest hurdle.”
Working in hot temperatures, however, is part of the job description when it comes to firefighting.
“Everything we do is hot in that gear, so we’re kind of used to it,” commented Maruk.
In addition, while physical fitness plays a major role in the stairclimb challenge, the battle is also a psychological one.
“It’s a mental game,” Maruk said. “You just have to be able to keep pushing.”
As volunteer firefighters, all of those who will be representing Stettler in the stairclimb challenge also have full-time jobs.
On top of this, most are also training on evenings and weekends for their Level 1 firefighting certificate.
“We’ve been putting in a lot of hours to get this qualification level,” Mark explained.
The stairclimb challenge, he said, is something the team members decided to take on outside of their regular work and training hours.
For Maruk, part of the reason for participating in this challenge is personal.
“My brother-in-law passed away last year from cancer, and my mom has cancer right now that she’s fighting,” he said. “Until cancer really impacts you, it’s easy to put it on the back burner.”
Maruk also noted that because of the toxins they’re exposed to, firefighters are more likely to develop cancer than members of the general population.
All of this makes Wellspring Calgary an important organization to support, according to Maruk.
“It’s a good place to fundraise for,” he said. “The money will go right to helping people in need.”
Those interested in sponsoring the firefighters can do so through the “SRFD Firefighter Stair Climb Team” Facebook page.