Five Okotoks firefighters climbed over one thousand stairs at the Bow Tower in Calgary on Sunday, all for a good cause.

The Calgary Firefighter Stair Climb Challenge event saw over 500 firefighters participate to raise funds for Wellspring Calgary, a charity that offers support to people with cancer and their caregivers. The local firefighters, who were split into two teams, raised close to $2,000.

Okotoks firefighter Ryan Kaiser says the climbers wore firefighting gear, including helmets, jackets, pants and boots, as well as an air pack on their backs, as they  made their way up 55 stories of the Bow Building.

"It's a lot easier to climb in shorts and a t-shirt," Kaiser says. "You start putting on the extra gear, and it's all designed for firefighters because we crawl through buildings because that's where the safe air is. We've got extra padding and extra material in the knees so trying to get those knees up every time you take a step, it's definitely a work out."

Kaiser, who has participated in the annual event for the past three years, made the trek up in about 24 minutes. Another Okotoks firefighter, Kevin Murray, logged the fastest time amongst the five local participants, making it to the top in 14 minutes. Kaiser says the local team supported each other along the way, throughout the fundraising efforts as well as during the climb itself.  

He says one of the biggest challenges came at just past the halfway mark in his climb.

"It's just really pushing through once you hit that wall," Kaiser says. "For me that wall was around floor 30, so I knew I was more than half way there but at the same time it was getting tougher and tougher and you're having to take a few more breaks."

Once climbers reached the top, they were ushered into a recovery area where volunteers helped climbers remove their gear. Then, they were able to rest, fuel up with snacks and water and even receive medical attention if necessary. Then, they took the elevator down to the ground floor to cheers of support from other firefighters who had already completed the challenge or who were waiting to begin.

Even though the journey up was physically challenging, Kaiser says the climb offered participants a unique perspective along the way.

"As you're climbing up you see the Telus building drop below your horizon, you just see the city open up above you and ulitmately you become higher than anything else in the city and it's an incredible feeling, an incredible view," he says. "Every now and then you hit a wall but you push through it and you know that what you're going through and the money that you've raised is going to help somebody that's dealing with cancer."

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