Firefighters climb Seattle's Columbia Center building to support cancer research

Thousands of firefighters climbed to the top of Seattle's tallest building Sunday for a good cause.

Men and women came from three different countries to take part in the 32nd annual Firefighter Stairclimb. It's a fundraising event that benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Moving at a steady and moderate pace, you can get the climb done in about a half-hour to 40 minutes. There are some elite stair climbers, however. The record to get to the top of the Columbia Center by a firefighter is ten minutes and 39 seconds.

"I don't think there is an event like this in the world," said Chief Ben Lane, Eastside Fire and Rescue.

Almost 70 floors up in Seattle sky, firefighters finished their long trek to the 73rd floor. Each firefighter was in full gear from mask to boots, adding on up to 65 pounds of extra weight.

"This is like my fourth time," Chief Lane said. "Honestly, I think I blocked out every previous time. So, right away I say I'm going to do this again. And as it gets closer, I'm like, 'I'm not really sure why I did this.'"

Every step the fire men and women took at Columbia Center was to raise money for blood cancer research, patient services and advocacy.

"We have all been touched by some form of cancer," said David O'Connor, a career fireman from Nampa, Idaho and an ambassador for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. "My father passed away last year due to cancer. He had been here for the last 15 years. Obviously, every time that I climb. So, it's one of those things where it really tends to touch home."

Each person at Sunday's event was climbing for someone, and that's what pushed them even further.

"Ultimately, there are some good reminders along the way in the stairwell," said Chief Lane. "You look up, and you see pictures of either survivors or those who have lost their life from blood cancer. That's what gives you the motivation to continue to the next floor."

Many of their loved ones greeted them at the top, showing their support in the fight for a cure.

"Lymphoma and leukemia have hit family members of ours," said Priscilla Smith, an event volunteer. "And, so, we are climbing in honor of them."

"I like supporting my dad in anything he does," said Brinley Lowe, an event volunteer. "Plus, I've had family members and friends who have had cancer, so I just think it's important."

More than 300 departments across the United States climbed Columbia Center in the event's 32nd anniversary. Many have done the climb for several years, and said they'll continue the tradition in the years to come.

"It's really about the foundation of what fire service is all about," said Chief Lane. "Doesn't matter who you are or where you are at. We have men and women across the world who are ready to, at a moment's notice, put their life on the line for a fellow citizen.

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Sunday's event was specifically for firefighters. However, if you were inspired to climb to the top of Columbia Center for a good cause, you can take part in the Big Climb on March 26. Registration is open for that event and it will also benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.