Firefighters surmount Stairclimb Challenge

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Local firefighters made the gruelling trek to the top of one of the tallest buildings in Western Canada sporting full firefighting gear as part of the fourth annual Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge.


The challenge saw nearly 500 firefighters, including 14 from Blackfalds and two from Lacombe, ascend 1,204 steps to the top of The Bow building on Sunday, all to support fellow firefighters and citizens dealing with cancer.

It’s the third year the Blackfalds Fire Dept. has participated in the event, but was likely the most meaningful, with one member, Dave Sutherland, recently diagnosed with the terminal brain cancer known as glioblastoma.

“With one of our members being diagnosed with cancer, it had a much more significant impact on everyone in the department,” said Blackfalds firefighter Chris MacDonald. “Three years ago, we had six members join and this year we had a total of 14, including one member from Denmark.”

Sutherland, he says, is doing OK, and is expected to go for an MRI in June.

The Stairclimb Challenge is hosted by the Calgary Firefighters Benevolent Society in support of Wellspring Calgary. All monies raised for the challenge go towards the non-profit, which offers support and services to firefighters and citizens in the community fighting cancer.

It’s no easy climb, and it sure isn’t hard to start questioning themselves why they signed up for it.

“That starts almost at the first floor, but it’s the adrenaline and the reason we’re doing it – the cause that makes it totally worth it,” MacDonald said.

The biggest struggle in the climb to the top of the Bow in downtown Calgary is the heat, not to mention a lack of air movement, and air thinning as they reach the higher levels.

“You can hear yelling probably from the 50th floor to the top. As soon as you step through those doors, there’s people there cheering for you,” he said. “Everyone comes together. It’s a brotherhood.”

As firefighters, MacDonald says they’re exposed to a lot more chemicals, whether it’s during a house fire or car fire. Those chemicals cling to their equipment and clothes, and it’s often the off-gassing that exposes them to toxins which cause various forms of cancer.

“It’s important to do different kinds of events to raise awareness. It gets looked over sometimes – not everyone understands what firefighters do, specifically in what we’re exposed to,” he said.

Blackfalds Fire Dept. raised $11,815 and was one of four teams that received honourable fundraising mentions, sitting behind Foothills Fire Dept. ($14,570) and Clearwater Regional Dept. ($12,475). Whitecourt Fire Rescue trailed with $11,161, while Canadian Naturals from Fort McMurray was the top team fundraiser with $25,960.

A total of $338,709 had been raised as of Tuesday – 89 per cent of Wellspring’s goal – but donations are still being accepted until May 31.

Links to donate, as well as more information on the event, can be found on

During a recent Blackfalds town council meeting, CAO Myron Thompson said a fundraiser for Dave Sutherland had raised $21,000. As well, the Firefighter’s Ball was cancelled due to other events being planned.

2018 Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge results:

• 38 Zach Frantz, Blackfalds Fire A, 14:10

• 98 Tim Cotton, Blackfalds Fire A, 16:05

• 139 Kurtis Kenway, Blakcfalds Fire A, 17:06

• 171 Kristian Moelgaar, Blackfalds Fire B, 18:16

• 205 Matthew Calder, Lacombe Fire Dept., 19:45

• 222 Brandon Buell, Blackfalds Fire C, 20:07

• 236 Tyler Kion, Blackfalds Fire C, 20:30

• 240 Chris Madsen, Blackfalds Fire B, 20:42

• 256 Zach Walker, Lacombe Fire Dept., 21:16

• 300 Chad Trotter, Blackfalds Fire D, 22:55

• 308 Eugene Ostropolski, Blackfalds Fire B, 23:11

• 324 Hayden Crawford, Blackfalds Fire D, 23:51

• 326 Chris Macdonald, Blackfalds Fire A, 23:51

• 343 Doug Carmichael, Blackfalds Fire B, 25:37

• 358 Brandon Hauck, Blackfalds Fire C, 26:48

• 368 Aaron Way, Blackfalds Fire C 27:40