Local firemen climb for a cure

Stormy Jameson

A group of Big Horn County Fire District #1 volunteer firefighters are traveling to Seattle, Washington, in March to participate in the 2024 Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Annual Firefighter Stair Climb.
Firefighters from across the country will meet in downtown Seattle on March 10 for the 33rd year to climb the Columbia Center Building, which is the second tallest building west of the Mississippi River and the tallest in Seattle.
Participants will suit up in full bunker gear and scale 69 floors (1,356 steps) to reach the top 1,788-foot elevation at the acclaimed Sky View Observatory overlooking the Emerald City.
Every step forward these firefighters take is representative of moving toward finding a cure for all of those battling these terrible diseases. In the 33 years the event has taken place, it has raised more than $25 million.
Last year, local climbing members included Kyle Leithead, Scotty Leonhardt, Levi Miller, Cleve Wilson, Zach Blain, Jared Minchow and Jake Bassett, with Bryce Dickerson serving as the bottle changer.
“It’s such a cool atmosphere,” Leithead said. “Almost 2,000 firefighters coming together and going through such a physically grueling task for such a meaningful cause is both surreal and humbling.”
Representatives of the local station finished the climb in about 22-23 minutes while the overall average for battalions was 30-35 minutes.
This year, Dickerson will be joining the others in the climb along with newcomer Shane Pitt, who will be replacing Blain and Minchow, while they are still finalizing who will complete the group’s bottle changing responsibilities.
“This year we know what to expect now,” Leithead said. “Last year we were all pretty nervous and overwhelmed, but now we have a good idea of how to pace ourselves and want to just take it all in and appreciate it even more.”
“Last year was eye opening how many people had a story,” fellow climber Wilson said. “Not only those walking for someone or as a survivor, but as we walked up each flight of stairs, there were pictures of survivors, and it gave us the motivation to keep going by seeing the faces that were in need of the funds we were helping raise.”
Participating individuals have begun training for this year’s event, and Club Dauntless is providing their daily workouts if anyone wants to see what it’s like and give it a shot.
This Saturday, there is a Lovell firemen’s rib dinner fundraiser being held at the Lovell Fire Hall from 3-7 p.m. to help cover travel expenses for the group. Tickets may be purchased for $15 in advance from any participating fireman, but they have asked to not wait until the last minute, because they’re running out of tickets fast. The climbers will also be selling gun raffle tickets in the coming weeks as an additional fundraiser.
Every fireman taking part in the event must raise a minimum of $300 to ascend the Columbia Center, which they cover themselves. All other money donated will cover traveling costs and go directly to the LLS organization.
“The funds raised help those battling leukemia and lymphoma in various ways, and unless you are in those situations, the expenses patients undergo can be unfathomable, not only for treatments, but for living expenses and other costs directly related to diagnosis,” Wilson said. “Even though it is a global organization, it has directly given back to multiple people and their families in our own community, and we appreciate the local support.”