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S.E. Portland firefighters race up stairs to fight cancer

by: David F. Ashton, Portland Fire & Rescue firefighter Marc Ham takes his turn on the stepping exerciser, as firefighter Tim Spring “passes the boot”, asking shoppers for a donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Even though the firefighters of Portland Fire and Rescue stay in shape by working out and training - and responding to emergencies - several of them spent February 23 on a stair-stepping exercise machine at Costco's Airport location.

When we arrived, we found a resident of the Sellwood neighborhood for fifteen years, firefighter Mark Ham, working up a sweat. In full gear - 70 pounds of it, including his breathing apparatus - he was vigorously working out. 'I'm getting ready for the 'Scott Firefighter Stairclimb for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society',' said the Inner Southeast firefighter, who works at the bureau's Training Academy on N.E. 122nd Avenue.

The stairclimb event, held this year on March 2 at Seattle's Columbia Center, is annually the largest individual firefighter competition in the world. More than 1,300 firefighters from across the Pacific Northwest - including 25 Portland-area firefighters - compete in this timed race to the top of the building.

Firefighter Tim Spring, a crew member of Woodstock's Station 25, on S.E. 52nd Avenue, said he was encouraging people to help 'fill the boot' he carried with donations.

'The proceeds go to help find a cure for cancer,' Spring explained. 'We've had several people in the department that have had cancer in the last five or six years. We're trying to get out in the community and show our support for cancer research.'

Ham agreed, 'We're volunteering our time because cancer has affected quite a few of our firefighters; this fundraiser is close to our hearts.'

The stairclimb events for the year are over, but you can still help: Drop off cash or a check for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society at any Portland fire station.