Tri-City firefighters will climb 48 storeys for lung health fundraiser

The 19th annual Climb the Wall on Feb. 23 at the Wall Centre in Vancouver will raise money for the BC Lung Association and feature firefighters from Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody

48 storeys.

50 lb. of equipment.

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Thousands of dollars for charity.

Four teams of Tri-City firefighters will join other emergency responders this weekend when they climb to the top of the 518-foot Wall Centre, Vancouver's third-tallest building, to raise money for the BC Lung Association.

This Sunday is the 19th annual Climb the Wall event, which raises money to fund lung patient support programs, research and advocacy for people affected by a lung or breathing condition.

"Firefighters routinely find themselves at risk of exposure to harmful air pollutants," said Rod Moini, a firefighter in Port Coquitlam. "While we take precautions and wear special gear to protect ourselves, each fire exposes us to a mix of toxins that can contribute to firefighters' increased risk of respiratory disease and cancer."

The Feb. 23 climb is a challenging task considering the amount of equipment the firefighters will be carrying.

Port Moody volunteer firefighter Andrew McKinlay said he has been doing weekly training in anticipation of the event, where participants compete for the best climb time.

"The event's a lot of fun but the firefighter stair climb challenge is no easy feat," he said. "When you consider firefighters compete… wearing full protective firefighter gear and breathing gear — the means hauling an additional 50 lb. or more of weight up all 48 storeys."

The average firefighter completes the climb in between 10 and 15 minutes, while the record is 4:17.

The BC Lung Association said this year's event could be the most popular yet, with 300 firefighters making the climb, which is more than double last year's numbers.

So far, the Burnaby firefighting team has raised the most money, hauling in $6,630, while MIssion firefighter Casey Inglis is the top individual fundraiser at $1,365. In the 18 years the event has been held, close to $2 million has been raised. 

To make a donation in your local department's name, go to www.stairclimb.ca and search for either "Port Moody FD," "PoCo Fire," "Coquitlam Fire Rescue" or "Port Moody Volunteer Firefighters."

Contestants who do not work as emergency responders are invited to participate. Non-firefighter climbers pay $25 to register and must commit to raising a minimum of $125. All proceeds go to the BC Lung Association. For more information or to register, call 1-800-665-LUNG or email stairclimb@bc.lung.ca.

Port Moody volunteer firefighters Chris Boechler (left) and Matt Turnell. - SUBMITTED PHOTO

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