Missoula firefighters enter final phase of training for Seattle Stairclimb

MISSOULA – Many of us turn our attention to physical fitness at this time of year. But those goals don’t include a timed climb of 70 flights of stairs. Unless you’re a Missoula firefighter.

The pounding of turnout boots once again fills UM’s tall dorm stairwells, the tallest in Missoula and the only place Missoula firefighters can drill for the upcoming Seattle Stairclimb.

“You absolutely have to be prepared to build up the stamina to be able to climb those 70 flights of stairs,” firefighter/EMT Blake Meyers said during a short break.

Seven journeys, up and down, without stopping. The only way to replicate the more than 1,300 steps the MFD stair-climbing team will face when the Annual Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Firefighter Stairclimb returns to the towering Columbia Center in March.

This year, training had to be moved here to Jesse Hall, but firefighters still take advantage of 10 flights of stairs for their training.

“We start with lots of outdoor hiking,” says Meyers. “And then in the months leading up to the stair climbing event, we’d like to go up the stairwell and up the stairs. And we get to one of the dorms here Missoula and are able to go up 10 flights stairs at a time and usually do, you know, seven times to try and replicate those 70 flights.

Never mind the math. It’s exhausting. And being this close as the firefighters pound down the stairs makes you appreciate how hard that “call” is. Especially coming back after the pandemic and bringing together a team of veterans and newcomers to replicate the top 10 results of the past.

“Certainly with the gap year, a few gap years, that leaves you susceptible to getting lazy and not being in the same training mode,” Meyers says. “But it just hurts a little bit more in the construction of the last two months.”

And of course, all for a good cause.

“I mean definitely for a good cause. Raising money for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. Another great push for another great fundraiser.”

A fundraiser that has already raised more than $700,000,000 this year from North West firefighters.

Climbing towards a $2 million goal.

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Richard V. Johnson