The 2016 Fire Fighter Stairclimb Challenge will take place on May 1 at Calgary’s BOW building, Western Canada’s tallest building and home of the highest elevation firefighter stair climb in the world. Firefighters will climb 1204 steps, which equates to 56 floors or 775 vertical feet in full fire fighting gear in efforts to raise awareness and support for firefighters and all citizens living with cancer. This will be the second year for the challenge, hosted by the Calgary Firefighters Benevolent Society.
This will be Elkford’s Director of Fire Rescue and Emergency Services, Bernie Van Tighem’s second year participating in the event. He has put the challenge out for more Elk Valley firefighters to raise money.
“Last year Elkford Fire had five or six members in the climb. So far this year there are some Sparwood Fire members signed up,” said Van Tighem.
The money raised will be in support of Wellspring Calgary. They provide a range of support, resources and programs to improve the quality of life for people living with cancer. Despite being an Alberta-based company, they also support B.C. residents.
Van Tighem plans to improve on his time from last year, all while wearing full firefighter gear.
“To be entered in the official timing a firefighter has to climb in gear while wearing a breathing air tank on their back. Last year I did not wear it but this year I will be, and I will attempt to beat my time from last year as well. The climbers are released 20 seconds a part,” he said.
The 56-floor climb is a workout for anyone, even without the gear.
“It is very tough. The stairway does not have great air circulation and the heat can be tough, especially with all the gear. But this only lasts for 20 minutes while climbing and cancer sufferers have a much longer battle,” he said.
Van Tighem has been training for the event, and has had positive results so far this climbing season.
“I climbed in the Calgary event last year with a time of 25 minutes. I also went to Vancouver this spring and climbed their 48-storey climb while in gear and breathing from the Air Pack. That climb took me 15 minutes, so my training is paying off,” he said.
Last year the event raised well over $130,000. This year Van Tighem hopes to raise more money himself, aiming for $2,500.
Van Tighem has promised to dye his hair – and potentially his goatee – pink if he reaches a certain fundraising amount this year. He will be around the Elk Valley seeking donations and has multiple web links set up to support the climbs cause.
“ I have indicated if I reach my goal I’ll dye my hair pink for the climb. If I exceed my goal by at least $500 I will dye my goatee pink as well,” he said. “I am halfway to my goal.”