Firefighters set sights on stair climb

Firefighters Clint Frank, Britain Whitley and Allo Pucci are fundraising for cancer research in preparation for the Seattle Stair Climb. (Photo by CAMERON RASMUSSON)

SANDPOINT — Next month, local firefighters will test the limits of their own endurance for the fourth year in a row.

Once again, the Seattle Stair Climb is approaching, and once again, firefighters Clint Frank, Allo Pucci and Britain Whitley will endure a mad scramble up 69 stories of Seattle’s Columbia Center, the second-tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi River. An exhausting athletic test in which participants must wear the full 70-odd pounds of turnouts, oxygen tanks and other firefighting gear, the Seattle Stair Climb attracts more than 1,500 firefighters from around the country each year.

“We’ve been training hard all year for this,” Frank said.

However, the Seattle Stair Climb isn’t just a means for firefighters to test their mettle against colleagues from around the nation. It also serves as a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and each participating team must reach a donation threshold before being allowed to enter the competition.

The Sandpoint team will be holding a donation drive from 3-7 p.m. this Friday at Safeway. The event will also serve as a preview for the stair climb itself, as the team will be decked out in full equipment and working up a sweat on a stair climbing machine. Residents interested in supporting local community pride and a worthy nonprofit at the same time would do well to toss a little cash their way.

Those who can’t make the scheduled fundraiser can still place a donation online by visiting www.sandpointfire.com and clicking the “Seattle Stair Climb” tab at the top of the page. Those less Internet-inclined can also drop a donation off at the fire department any time.   

For the first time, the established Sandpoint team will be adding a new member to its ranks. Volunteer firefighter Trevor Edwards will be joining the three for the brutal March 10 endurance test. To ensure they represent Sandpoint the very best they can, team members have been maintaining a hardcore fitness routine at Crossfit Gym, a recently-opened fitness center near City Hall. According to Frank, the workout builds the core strength and endurance they’ll need to compete at their best. The Seattle Stair Climb also provides motivation for the firefighters to stay in top shape and better serve the community.

They also have something of a reputation to uphold. As a team, Sandpoint finished 13th out of 175 last year. The firefighters aim to maintain that high-ranking tradition this year and hope to all finish in the top 100 participants with a completion time of under 15 minutes.

Regardless of the outcome, however, the team is excited to simply be participating. The firefighters said the chance to bond as coworkers and spend time with colleagues from all around the country is not an opportunity to pass up lightly.  

“You can just feel the enthusiasm,” Frank said. “When they do the pipe and drum band in the opening ceremony, it really makes you proud to be a firefighter.”

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