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By Dan Rudy 

Local volunteer firefighters raise $4700


Submitted Photo

Wrangell firefighters Adam Sprehe, Dorianne Curley, Tim Buness and Chris Hatton pause for a group picture outside the Columbia Tower, Seattle's tallest. The four took part in the 24th annual Scott Firefighters Stairclimb, which raises money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Earlier this month, three members of the Wrangell Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) were able to gear up and attend this year's Scott Firefighter Stairclimb in Seattle, Wash.

Firefighters Chris Hatton, Adam Sprehe and Dorianne Curley made the trip along with Tim Buness. The three joined 1,897 other firefighters on March 8 to climb the Columbia Center, the West Coast's second-tallest skyscraper.

In its 24th year, the annual charity event draws firefighters from around the world, raising money and awareness for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). Wrangell's VFD raised $4,797, better than their initial goal of $4,500.

"This was our biggest year in terms of what the community donated," Sprehe said. "It was incredible. There's a huge thank you to the community for what was donated."

In all, the event has raised close to $2 million this year, though fundraising continues until the end of the month.

All the money raised goes to support leukemia, myeloma and lymphoma research and treatment. Founded in 1949, LLS is the world's largest voluntary health organization dedicated to combating blood cancers.

"Everyone's there for the same purpose," Hatton explained of the climb. "The feeling is in the air; it's super supportive."

Firefighters making the climb are organized into 48 battalions of around 20 people each. They are then given a timing chip and sent up the tower in 12-second intervals.

"It's super well-organized," said Hatton. Once started, firefighters make their way up 69 flights of stairs.

Climbers are laden in full gear-Hatton explained hers weighs 44 pounds-and, as part of the exercise, must be using a breathing apparatus. Buness was Wrangell's designated bottle changer, helping his teammates change tanks midway through their climb.

To prepare for this feat, Wrangell's climbers made use of the gym's stair-step machine and practiced ascending the Mount Dewey and Rainbow Falls trails in their gear.

"It's a great incentive for me to get off the couch," Hatton joked. She explained the exercise also gets firefighters better acquainted with their gear as well. "It's just good practice."

The climb is not only a physical exercise. It also has an emotional element to it, commemorating those living with or dying from leukemia and other cancers of the blood.

"It's super moving because when you're in the stairwell you see pictures of people who are living with or lost the battle," Hatton said. "It's a pretty moving day. And it's well worth doing again."

"I think we're going to try getting a team going for the 25th (year of the event)," Curley said. Registration is limited, and demand for the climb is high. She recalled the online registration for this year's stair climb filled up less than 10 minutes after opening.

The team was appreciative of their community's support, not only through the money raised but to see the responses on Facebook afterwards.

"It was really cool afterwards to see the Wrangell support," Hatton said.

Donations can still be made online at http://www.llswa.org and can go toward the Wrangell total by selecting its VFD team in the menu.


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