HELENA — Dozens of teams of firefighters from across Montana will head to Seattle to climb the city's tallest building in March.
The 29th Annual Stair Climb raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the world’s largest health agency dedicated to blood cancer.
According to the foundation, about once every three minutes, one person in the United States will be diagnosed with a blood cancer.
For East Helen Fire Chief Troy Maness, that statistic is personal.
“My daughter-in-law actually is a childhood survivor of leukemia,” Maness said. “I’ve had multiple friends over the years that have passed away from leukemia.”
With victims and survivors in mind, Maness and thousands of other firefighters will head to Seattle to climb the Columbia Center, the city’s tallest building representing 69 flights of stairs, all while wearing more than 60 pounds of gear.
“This is just a small feat compared to what blood cancer patients are going through,” Maness said.
As the Stairclimb ambassador for Montana this year, Maness said 2,100 firefighters from across the world are taking part. In Montana, 31 fire departments, both paid and volunteer, have signed up to participate.
“It’s a great honor for us to be going and climbing up in their honor,” Maness said.
While the climb can be grueling - firefighters sometimes train year-round to do it – Maness said with each step, he keeps the goal in mind.
“We tell ourselves why we’re doing it and who we’re doing it for,” Maness said.
Last year, Montana teams raised nearly $100,000 for LLS. This year, Maness wants to top that. Every firefighters participating pledges to raise $300, and Maness said you’ll start to see firefighters raising money in the community.
“You may see as us at the local grocery stores like Walmart or Super One or Albertsons and stuff like that,” Maness said.
The Stairclimb is also seen as a friendly competition between firefighters of who can reach the top of the building fastest.
The Missoula City Fire Department has consistently been the team to beat. Six-time winner Andrew Drobeck had his streak snapped this past March when he finished second overall.
The LLS Firefighter Stairclimb is on Sunday, March 8, 2020. You can donate to an individual or an entire team by clicking here .