Nine Sisters Camp-Sherman firefighters will be participating in the annual Leukemia and Lymphoma Society stair climb in Seattle on March 7.
More than 2,000 firefighters from around the world participate in climbing the Columbia Tower located in downtown Seattle. The stair climb is in its 29th year, and this will be the sixth year in a row Sisters firefighters will be participating. Travis Bootes, participant and EMT firefighter, spoke with The Nugget on the climb and why they do it.
“We really do it for the cause of it, all of the funds raised go directly to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), none of the funds raised goes to the fire departments,” said Bootes.
The climb entails climbing up 69 flights of stairs in full turnout gear, which means full protective gear, caps, masks and air tanks. It is calculated as 1,356 steps.
“Within the tower, there are photos of survivors, and honorees are at the building and it really keeps you climbing,” Bootes said.
The day of the climb, no one except participants, families, honorees and survivors and those involved with the LLS are allowed in the building, making the event the main purpose for the day.
The event has been raising funds for the LLS for almost 30 years, funds for research and development to help fight these deadly diseases.
Bootes enjoys doing it just for the cause, even though it is a tough endeavor; he says it’s not that much different than what they do as firefighters anyway.
“It is rewarding to finally finish the climb, and getting to see photos in the stairwell of survivors is a motivator for us,” he said.
As far as preparing for the climb goes, Bootes says there is no way for them to practice what they do on the climb, especially in Sisters which doesn’t have any high-rise buildings. However, he said they basically keep up with their own training for firefighting as well as some days of using the stair-climber gym apparatus.
“We try to just stay in the best cardio shape that we can and keep our bodies in shape for what we are doing,” he said.
Because it is such a large group of firefighters on the endeavor, they have to pace back at least 10 seconds apart from one another, but it ends up getting quite crowded and packed within the stairwell where it bottles up, but everyone gets to the destination eventually. As far as hydration goes, Bootes says they have water stations, but mostly the water is not to drink, as that would be a hassle to take off the mask every time, so instead, they pour water down the back of them to attempt to cool off their bodies.
Bootes says there is a common misconception that the fundraiser and the climb is just for the firefighters. Instead, they want the public to know that the climb doesn’t benefit them, but strictly the LLS and those patients it services. The Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire team has already begun their own fundraising to raise a certain amount of money for LLS.
“It is the only fundraiser we do, so we want people to know it is not for us, it is for the foundation and part of the climb,” said Bootes.
Currently, the team has raised $10,577 and hopes to reach $18,000 by the time of the event in March. Rachelle Beiler and a few other firefighters have gotten word out via social media and friends to raise money for the LLS.
They really want to get the word to the community and businesses around town. Businesses and families and friends of the community have already donated.
“We really want to get the word out about what the fundraiser is for and really let the community know the cause we are raising money for,” Bootes said.
The Sisters Camp-Sherman Fire participants include: Jeremy Ast, Rachelle Beiler, Ben Duda, John Failla, Israel Pintor, Emily Spongnardi, Mitch Turpen, Travis Bootes, and David Ward.
For more information on the climb and the LLS, visit Stair Climb. Sisters residents make donations by keying in “Sisters Fire” and selecting the donation amount.