Skip to content

Okotoks responders climbing Clark Avenue stairs for charity

Calgary Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge raising funds to support those dealing with cancer
NEWS-Firefighter Stair Climb BWC 0441 web
Okotoks firefighters Ryan Kaiser and Ian McLeod are among the Okotoks Fire Department members that will be participating in the Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge in May. This year the event is taking place virtually, with responders climbing staircases in full gear in their communities, such as those by Clark Avenue. and Elma Street.

Okotoks firefighters are getting their steps in again this year to support those with cancer.

Ryan Kaiser, a firefighter with the Okotoks Fire Department, is one of those taking part in the Calgary Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge.

“Members of the Okotoks Fire Department as well as a member from the RCMP have accepted the challenge,” he said.

The team is hoping to add EMS and Okotoks Municipal Enforcement members to the roster, Kaiser added.

The event is organized by Wellspring Calgary, which supports firefighters and others dealing with cancer, as well as their families.

Participants are asked to raise at least $250 and ascend 1,204 stairs or 236m (774 ft) of elevation on one day between May 2-15. It's open to teams or individuals.

Firefighters taking part have to do so in full turnout gear. This includes their heavy jacket and pants, boots, helmet, and the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), but they don’t need their gloves or Nomex hood.

Similar to 2020, this year’s challenge will be done “virtually”, with participants using staircases in their communities on account of COVID-19 restrictions.

They then validate their climb by submitting photos of a fitness tracker, phone app, or their team after the climb.

In previous years, it was held at the Bow building in downtown Calgary, with a mezzanine on an upper floor serving as a finish line.

As the event has gone virtual and Kaiser’s team is using a smaller set of stairs, this means they will have to repeatedly descend, then climb again. Only upward steps count.

“You have to walk down, and those (steps) don’t count,” he said. “Essentially you’re doing double.”

Okotoks participants will climb the stairs at the intersection of Clark Avenue and Elma Street, which is just over 80 steps. This means 15 runs up—and just as many down.

Okotoks firefighter Ian McLeod is looking forward to doing his part in the great outdoors.

“The one thing I like about that element of this stair climb is in the Calgary building, we’re not actually able to go with our full SCBA on,” he said. “Whereas here, if you wanted to do that, you could.”

Another plus of getting outside is the Bow’s staircases face out of the glass facade.

“This is actually one of the other advantages to not being in the staircase—the sun beats in throughout the day, so it heats up in there,” McLeod pointed out.

He’s hoping the sun won’t come out that day.

“This won't be as bad unless it's 30 degrees, like it was last year when we did it.”

While the immediate hazards are obvious for firefighters saving people from fire and car crashes, cancer is lurking in the background.

Firefighters face a considerably higher rate of cancer due to exposure to carcinogens, as well as higher mortality, according to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the United States, cited on the event website.

Personal protective equipment does not completely eliminate risk of exposure and can occur in all stages of an incident from firefighting to doffing equipment at the fire hall.

It is also the leading cause of death of firefighters in the line of duty, according to a trend analysis by the Association of Workers Compensation Boards of Canada.

The event is open to not only first responders, but anyone who wishes to raise the money and participate.

For more information about the Calgary Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge, click here.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks