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Local firefighters ascend Seattle stair-climb for charity

by: Hoodland Fire, Firefighters take to the stairs of the Columbia Center.

Firefighters from all three local fire districts joined more than 1,300 of their colleagues from 200 departments across the Pacific Northwest and around the nation for the 17th annual Scott Firefighter Stairclimb at the Columbia Center in downtown Seattle on Sunday, March 2.

The event - the largest individual firefighter competition in the world - is a timed race to the top of the 69-story building, with firefighters dressed in full 'combat gear' and self-contained breathing apparatuses. The self-induced mega-workout is about more than just bragging rights; participants raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through sponsorships, individual and department fund-raising, and entry fees.

In 2007, the event brought in a record $365,000 for blood-cancer research and patient services. Awards are given to the fastest climbers and the top 10 fund-raisers.

Sandy firefighter Josh Clemmer returned to the event by improving on his 2007 time by more than two minutes. He made the trip up the second-highest building west of the Mississippi in 17 minutes, an average of 77 stairs a minute. Fellow Sandy firefighter Eric Gatchell made his first stair climb in 22 minutes.

Hoodland Fire's Scott Freeman and Phil Burks represented their district for the first time at the event. Freeman pulled an impressive 18 minutes, 57 seconds for his climb, and Lt. Burks made it up the Columbia Center in 25 minutes, 22 seconds.

'Pretty good times considering they practiced on our two-and-a-half-story training tower in the snow,' said Hoodland Fire Chief Mic Eby. 'We are very proud of these two dedicated and fit men.'

The Boring Fire District sent the largest contingent of local firefighters to the event - eight in all. Third-year participants included Ted Pentecost, Josh Smith, Mike Kemper and Chris Wright. Brent Hergert made his second trip up the skyscraper, and Shane Thomas, Josh O'Dell and Sandor Pongracz attended for the first time.

Boring Fire didn't have its representatives' climb times as of press time.