Okotoks firefighter Ryan Kaiser is feeling the burn after climbing 1204 stairs on Tuesday, May 4th, for Wellspring Calgary.

The organization provides support for those being treated for cancer.

Kaiser is one of several local first responders participating in the 7th Annual Calgary Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge from May 2nd-15th.

The event typically takes place at the Bow building in Calgary, though, like last year, it's being done a little differently due to COVID-19.

Instead, local first responders are scaling the Clark Avenue stairs.

Participants are having to climb the equivalent of the Bow's stairs or 774 feet in total.

The thing is, the Clarke Avenue stairs aren't nearly as tall as the Bow building's, so those undertaking the challenge have to regularly descend the stairs, which doesn't count toward the total distance climbed.

Kaiser says it definitely makes for a different challenge than usual.

"With the Bow, you don't have those long gaps between stairs, you're just continually doing stairs. You don't have to go down. It was a nice little reprieve but in total, I guess it was 2408 stairs that I went up and down."

He says the cause hits close to home for himself and fellow firefighters.

"Firefighters are at greater risk of getting cancer, just because of the greater risk of carcinogens that are involved with fire these days. So for us to be out there supporting an organization that helps people that are going through cancer, it's a big deal."

He's not alone though, as he'll be joined by other first responders including EMS and RCMP personnel.

Kaiser's glad to see that kind of unity.

"There's definitely a community among fire personnel and I'd even go as far as including all emergency services. It's not like the old days where police stayed on one side, the fire stayed on one side, the ambulance stayed on one side. We're all in this together and we're all supportive of each other."

With Kaiser having faced the challenge on Firefighter Appreciation Day, he was greeted with a surprise at the stairs.

Students from Percy Pegler School had made signs with encouraging messages, which ere fastened to the stairs' handrails.

Kaiser says it as a great surprise.

"When I came here this morning I thought 'oh what's this?' Then when I saw who they were from and what they were saying, it was great motivation and I hope the other members that do the climb will be able to come out and see them as well."

Last he checked, they'd raised around $1500, though the event is far from over.


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