Firefighters take 1,370 steps at full speed to help people beat cancer

A ten-member Cochrane Fire Services team took over Brooksfield Place in Calgary during the 10th annual Firefighters Stairclimb on June 9. Along the way, $5,332 has been raised so far for Springwell Alberta.

All ten successfully climbed the skyscraper’s 1,370 steps in full gear, including helmets, boots and especially heavy breathing apparatus. Among them were Chris Chyka and Derek Orr, who are among the few who take part in the collection every year.

Chyka has no doubt about it, it’s a physical challenge, even more daunting now, but you can conquer this level with the encouragement of your teammates and the many volunteers who cheer you on every step of the way. They are there, opening the door to give you some fresh air and make sure everything is okay.

“You’re almost at the top, your legs are tired and you’re running with your heart. When you run up the tower and these people are cheering you on, which I must admit is helpful, especially when you’re in your 40s.”

Cochrane was the penultimate team to reach the top. At this time of day, the heat begins to sap your energy.

“When you start out, everything is fine, you enjoy the mobility and the weight doesn’t seem too bad. But the heat is oppressive and saps your energy,” says Chyka.

“They’re sending firefighters in waves,” Orr says. “I think there were about 20 firefighters per wave, and 16 of the 17 were waving at us. We probably started our escape at about 1:15, so you can imagine what 420 firefighters could do to a stairwell with very little airflow.”

After making good on their vow to do this for the first 10 years, will they do it again? Never say never again.

Chris Chyka and Derek Orr at the top of Brooksfield Place. (contribution)

“You know, I don’t feel that bad right now, to be honest with you,” Chyka says. “We’ve done enough and we know what it’s like.”

What inspires both Orr and Chyka is the size of the team they have sent and the enthusiasm shown during the months of training necessary to prepare. It’s something they do in their free time.

“We were sort of the team captains and the driving force behind our department’s involvement. We have some young guys who have done quite well this year and we hope they will take over from us,” Orr says. “So if we do this next year, we will be participants rather than drivers.”

Chyka says there’s nothing better than having your teammates at the top of the tower and sharing the satisfaction of completing the climb.

“We are proud that as a team we were able to raise $5,332.”

It is also a matter very close to the hearts of all firefighters. In Alberta, there are 20 presumptive cancers considered an occupational hazard associated with being a firefighter. This is where Wellspring comes into play.

“It’s important,” Orr says. “As Chris always says, this is non-medical support. In Alberta, everyone gets pretty good care for cancer and medical issues, but there’s very little help with simple things like finances.”

The firefighters were joined for a second year by city CEO Mike Derricott. Jay Judin, director of protective services and emergency management, also climbed.

Orr says their support is appreciated

GRPF Executive Director Jeromy Farkas participated in his second Challenge the Chief event. (contribution)

Although he was not part of the Cochrane Fire Services team, Jeromy Farkas, executive director of the Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation, participated in his second Challenge the Chief event.

While serving on Calgary City Council, Farkas underwent recruiting training to better understand their business, but he never imagined he would be invited to participate in Stairclimb.

Farkas is all about raising money for Wellspring (he’s raised $7,940 so far), but he also admits to a friendly rivalry with Calgary Fire Chief Steve Dongworth.

“I only came in a little quicker than Chief Dongworth, but he’s 30 years older than me, so I did everything I could to hold him and keep him in my sights. I made it in the end, but man, I had to use up all the fuel in the tank to do it, and I’m not sure he would have let me win.”

He says it’s ultimately about firefighters, their community and ensuring they have the support they need when dealing with workplace hazards like cancer.

“In fact, the goal of this event was to raise over $300,000 to support people battling and recovering from cancer and their families. It’s crazy when I think about these firefighters, they are people who run into burning buildings rather than out of them. and the last thing they should do is face cancer alone.

“It was just amazing to see the community come together. It is not obvious to me that I was invited to participate.”

He acknowledges the Cochrane team.

“Cochrane punches above its weight class when it comes to volunteering, philanthropy, fundraising and the team that Cochrane sent, man, they are strong. These guys are fast and they left me behind.”

Mayor Jeff Genung has participated in the Challenge the Chief event twice in the past, but was unable to attend due to a nagging injury.