Jonathon Schramm and Kyle Flynn train on the stairs at the Panorama Fire Department. Submitted photo

Stepping up to the challenge

Local firefighters train for competition that raises funds to support cancer victims

Fifty-five flights of stairs. 1,204 steps. 775 vertical feet.

Two teams of firefighters from the Columbia Valley are training to climb the highest elevation firefighter stairclimb in the world, in support of a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people living with cancer and their caregivers.

Panorama firefighter Jonathon Schramm is competing for the second year in a row. Last year, Mr. Schramm recalled it being pretty nerve-wracking just waiting for his turn and watching others head out on the challenge. But once he got started, he just kept putting one foot in front of another.

“Cancer’s a pretty big cause of death for firefighters … I kept thinking of what people with cancer are going through,” he said. “Between that and the encouragement from all the others doing it, they help push you. You eventually get through it.”

The firefighters run the stairs in full turnout gear (the uniform they wear to fight fires) which can weigh upwards of 30 kg (65 lb).

Mr. Schramm and fellow firefighter Kyle Flynn have been training at the Panorama department stairs (35 stairs) which they run up and down 36 times per training session every two or three days.

“We are proud of our members taking part and giving their best effort in this annual event which not only raises money for cancer research, but also helps spotlight the link between firefighting and cancer, and the presumptive cancers affecting so many firefighters,” remarked Drew Sinclair, deputy fire chief for Columbia Valley Rural Fire & Rescue Services, who will also be joining the crew at the challenge along with Rob Hellyer, a former Valley firefighter who now lives in Calgary.

This is the third year for a Panorama team to attend the challenge. The Invermere Fire Department has stepped up this year too. Team captain Brendan Garies decided to do the challenge and convinced another four members to join him. On joint training days, they run the stairs at Lakeview Meadows – 169 stairs – about seven laps each time.

“It’s been fun, and it’s a good way to stay in shape too,” commented Mr. Garies. Fellow firefighter Janice Dallaire agreed, noting the started training in plain clothes then worked their way up into their full firefighting gear.

“I definitely have a lot more stamina now,” Ms. Dallaire remarked.

Other Invermere firefighters on the team are Jordan Smith, Billy Robideau, and Nick Melmyk.

The Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge takes place at the Bow Building in Calgary Sunday, May 5th. Event proceeds support Wellspring Calgary, a non-profit organization that offers programs, services and resources for people living with cancer and their caregivers.

To donate, go to www.calgarystairclimb.com. Click on ‘Show a firefighter support’ and search for either ‘Panorama’ or ‘Invermere’ to donate. The Panorama department is also looking for corporate sponsors, and are planning to get t-shirts made with sponsor companies listed. If you are interested in this initiative, email Mr. Schramm at schramm.jonathan@gmail.com.

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