Six career and auxiliary firefighters from Powell River Fire Rescue took to the stairs in a competition at Vancouver’s Sheraton Wall Centre and came away with third place.
Having to climb the 48 floors of the hotel’s north tower in full firefighting gear, including with an air pack on their backs, Powell River’s firefighters distinguished themselves, competing against much larger fire departments from the Metro Vancouver area.
Kurtis Dennison, an auxiliary firefighter and captain of the Powell River team, said there were three auxiliary and three career staff competing. In addition to Dennison, competing in the Sheraton Climb the Wall event were Steve Mast, Brent Del Giudice, Robert Devlin, Jesse Hildering and Dave Ellis.
The climb was daunting, according to the participants.
“You’d run maybe the first 10 floors and then you’d end up walking, trying to pace yourself,” said Dennison. “It’s always a competition when it comes down to firefighters.
“So we were competing, but we were also doing it for fun, and also for a fundraiser for the BC Lung Association.”
The local firefighters brought donations of more than $2,000 from fundraising in the community and family members.
“It was a good amount,” said Dennison. “They were pretty happy with that.”
Doing the climb in full gear complicates the process. There is the added weight and balance considerations with the air pack, the gear does not breath and it’s not as flexible as regular clothing, said Dennison.
Training for the event was not easy in Powell River. Team members ran the stairs at the fire hall, but it’s not the same as running the stairs at the Sheraton Wall Centre.
“We only have one flight of stairs and you’re always going back down, which essentially gives you a rest,” said Dennison. “We didn’t know what to expect going into it but we knew it would probably be pretty tough.”
Given the team’s placement in the event, it’s indicative that the team members are into fitness.
“It was our goal to have a team made up of people who were into pushing themselves,” said Dennison. “It requires a lot of mental strength as well.”
The Powell River team was up against nine other teams in the competition. There were 305 firefighters who took part. The firefighters were involved in the competition as individuals, and for the team competition, an average of the fastest five firefighters was taken, which resulted in Powell River’s third-place finish.
The plan is to go back down next year.
“We are going to start training harder in advance,” said Dennison. He added that the team will work harder to raise more money for the lung association.
He said when his team heard they were third, the looks on their faces were pretty comical.
“I had to go ask the guy again to make sure he said Powell River,” said Dennison. “It was pretty funny.”