A few steps in and about 1,300 to go, some Sequim firefighters are in for a climb.
They’ll be scaling the second tallest building west of the Mississippi River on March 9 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as part of the 23rd annual Scott Firefighter Stairclimb.
Four Sequim firefighters with Clallam County Fire District 3 and 11 firefighters from the Port Angeles Fire Department join 1,800 firefighters from around the world to climb 69 floors at the Columbia Center, formerly Bank of America Tower, in downtown Seattle.
“That’s about 23 Vintage’s on top of each other (Sequim’s tallest residential building),” said Jared Romberg, a firefighter/EMT with Clallam County Fire District 3.
He’ll make the climb for the first time with fellow firefighters James Brown, Brian Oulette and Lee Oman in full firefighter equipment.
The firefighters said the pressure was on to do it at least once since 10 other firefighters in the department have done it before.
“We had to say we did it,” Oullette said. “Plus it’s a good way to give back.”
Teams and individuals raise money before the event through individual and team sponsorships.
Clallam County Fire District 3’s team raised $2,545 of its $2,500 goal so far and the Port Angeles Fire District team is at $4,021 of its $10,000 goal.
Last year, 1,500 firefighters from 282 fire departments raised $1.44 million for blood-cancer research and patient services. This year, organizers added 300 more spots and there was a rush to sign up, local firefighters said.
Lt. Jake Patterson with the Port Angeles Fire Department and a Sequim resident, plans to participate in the event for the 10th time.
He said the good cause is one reason he keeps doing it along with the camaraderie with the other firefighters.
“We’re all part of the fire department family,” he said.
Three of the 11 Port Angeles firefighters are first timers, too.
Patterson’s recommendation is to pace yourself and keep going. Romberg echoed this from what he’s heard.
“They say to pace yourself because if you race and get to the 30th floor, you’re dead,” he said.
Brown said a major x-factor is the heat.
“There are so many firefighters in their gear that it naturally heats up,” he said.
To prepare, the firefighters aren’t taking the rigorous climb lightly.
Patterson said he and the others will climb stairs in full gear in Port Angeles. He also trains locally even a few times in the gym in full gear.
“I do feel more energetic,” he said. “Some of the guys do it for motivation during the winter months.”
The Sequim crew has mixed up its training too by using a stair climber wearing weights or their gear.
They also trained on the tower department’s tower several times.
When the big day comes, both Oullette and Romberg hope to finish in or before 15 minutes while Oman wants to finish in under 20 minutes.
Oman, age 61, said there were only nine participants in his age bracket last year and the best time was 19 minutes.
“I hope to beat that,” he said.
Brown isn’t putting a time on his finish.
“My goal is to just finish with a smile,” Brown said.
To learn more about the Scott Firefighter Stairclimb, visit http://www.llswa.org.
To make a contribution in the name of a team or participant, click “donate” on the Stairclimb’s page and search for either “Clallam County Fire District 3” or “Port Angeles Fire Department.”