Firefighter to climb 69 flights — in full gear
Firefighter DeDe Brown of Quincy will be one of about 1,500 firefighters participating in the 2015 Scott Firefighter Stair Climb, which benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
The event is March 8 at the Columbia Tower in downtown Seattle.
This will be the second stair climb for Brown, who participated last year in The Big Climb in Seattle, which is open every year to the public. This is her first time participating in the Scott Stair Climb.
Last year, when she participated in The Big Climb, participants were allowed to invite family members to cheer them on and watch. The climb was also done without gear.
As a participant in the 24th Annual Scott Firefighter Stair Climb, Brown will be wearing full firefighting gear, and family members or friends will not be allowed on the premises.
Brown’s inspiration for participating comes from her family friend, 6-year-old Tyler Johnson, who died in 2003 from complications from Leukemia.
She also is dedicating this stair climb to cancer survivor, co-worker and friend Michele Talley, a fellow firefighter at Grant County Fire District No. 3. Their pictures will be posted on the walls next to the stairs along with others during the climb.
The Columbia Tower, which is the tallest building in Seattle, boasts 69 flights of stairs, or about 1,311 steps. It stands at 788 feet tall.
In 2014, the Scott Firefighter Stair Climb featured 1,800 firefighters from more than 300 different departments. It raised $1.97 million for blood-cancer research and patient services, according to the event’s website.
In preparation, Brown has been practicing climbing stairs dressed in full gear at least twice a week at the fire station. The gear weighs about 75 pounds.
“I do two days a week training with gear on the stairs,” Brown said. “I have a Stairmaster at home. I try to do something every day so I can keep up my endurance and cardio.”
Talley’s job during the climb will be to hand Brown new air cylinders for her self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). SCBA cylinders typically are used when firefighters enter a structure fire. Climb participants will use SCBA at times when they may feel winded or over exerted. The air in the cylinders lasts about 20 minutes, depending on how much air the person is using.
“It’s not going to last 70 flights,” Talley said. “We have to change it out.”
For this reason, Brown is practicing her breathing for the event.
“The race is in a stairwell,” she said. “There is no good ventilation. You just go straight into the stairs.”
Brown is getting support from her fellow firefighters at Grant County Fire District No. 3. She would like to get a larger group together to participate in the climb next year.
So far Brown has raised $700 in donations for the LLS.
— By Tammara Green, QVPR contributor