First responders preparing for charity stairclimb challenge

Marshall Manns is moving on up – literally.

Manns is one of five area firefighters – including Creighton’s Cory Slater and Marty Ledoux, Flin Flon’s Aaron Simon and Brent Stomp of Denare Beach – getting ready to take on the Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge in Calgary on April 29.

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The event will see firefighters and first responders from across Canada climbing to the top of The Bow in downtown Calgary, one of the tallest skyscrapers in western Canada. In the run-up to the event, firefighters will accept pledges and donations for Wellspring Calgary, a cancer care centre.

Manns and Slater both took part in the same stairclimb event at the tower last year. Has anything changed for the returnees?

“Other than I’ve trained the full year for it, not really,” said Manns.

The training for the event is strenuous. On top of the conditioning that firefighters already do as part of their service, preparing to climb up 263 vertical metres with almost 30 kilograms of gear on is not an easy task.

“Once a week, we put on our full turnout gear and air tanks and we go practice on stairs,” said Manns.

Across the border, Simon has been training even harder, completing a grueling routine every second day.

“We have a flight of stairs at the fire hall that’s 18 steps high. The tower we’re climbing is 1,204 steps. I do that flight of stairs at the fire hall 67 times, in full turnout gear with a SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus) on,” he said.

“My legs, at the end of the day, are about ready to kill me.”

Simon heard about the event from Slater, who works with him.

“He was talking about it and he was doing fundraising for it last year. I thought it would be something interesting to get into,” said Simon.

“When I saw the bulletin comes out, I signed up, started doing fundraising and started training.”

Deep into preparations for his second year at the event, Manns has no intention of going back for a third year. “If I beat my time from last year, I’ll retire. If I don’t beat my time from last year, I’ll retire,” he joked.

The main goal for the event is more than just a physical challenge. Through Wellspring Calgary and the donations contributed by the firefighters taking part, the stairclimb raises money for firefighter-related cancers, including lung, brain, kidney and prostate cancer. According to the American National Institute of Health, firefighters have almost a 70 per cent higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer than the general population.

“I’ve had family members that have had cancer, there are a few members of our department who have had cancer and just about everybody has, in one way or another, been affected by cancer. It’s the small part I can do to help a little bit,” said Simon.

“They support not only the person suffering, but the families as well. They suffer too, just in a different way,” said Manns about the organization.

Donations to the five area firefighters’ fundraising campaigns can be made at www.calgarystairclimb.com and give.wellspringcalgary.ca.

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