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Firefighters make the climb for a cause

Seven firefighters from the Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority (BRFA) Station 5 walked up 55 flights of stairs at the R.J. Lalonde Arena to participate in the seventh annual Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge.

BONNYVILLE – The cheering and music that filled the R.J. Lalonde Arena on May 8 was a bit different than what normally fills the facility.  

Seven firefighters from the Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority (BRFA) Station 5 donned their gear to participate in the seventh annual Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge, which typically takes place in Calgary at the BOW tower, to raise money for firefighters and families struggling with cancer.   

The group raised $3,900 for the cause.  

Station 5 Fire Chief Craig Wenzel said each member had to make the trek up and down the stairs at the R.J. 55 times to equal the 1,204 steps of the BOW tower.   

“They just outdo themselves every year,” Wenzel said when asked about the members who signed up this year. “It’s funny because it’s always easy to convince people to come and do this. Firefighters have to be physically fit and active, so it’s not too hard to convince people to do it. It’s really nice to see them coming out, having fun, and just spending time with one another.”  

This marks the second time the event went virtual due to the pandemic, but Bonnyville firefighters have been taking part since long before then. 

Wenzel is one of the firefighters to make the climb for the first time in 2015.

“We originally started doing it as a challenge to us,” he recalled. "The cause for donations and whatnot is extremely valuable - Wellspring Calgary - which fundraises and gives money out to people who are living with cancer. It actually goes to the people to have activities and whatnot as opposed to going strictly to research. Cancer is a huge thing for firefighters, so we definitely take that to heart and really appreciate being able to help out.”  

Leading up to May 8, Wenzel, along with the other firefighters, spent weeks training and preparing for the climb. They came together when they could to train outdoors and a few went to Walsh Field to trek up and down the grandstand stairs.  

This was firefighter Amber McCutcheon's first-time participating. She recently joined Station 5 and was proud of herself for taking part in the stairclimb.  

“It was really great, and I feel totally empowered,” she expressed. “I’ve been training five-weeks just to do this and I completed it.”  

Fellow first-time participant Lt. Dakota Theroux wasn’t able to train with the rest of the group, but still managed to keep up with everyone.  

“A lot of the guys have been training for a couple of months now, so they had a little bit more advantage than me, but it was good.”  

Although they weren’t able to drive out to Calgary and climb the actual BOW tower, Wenzel said the group still was able to hold a celebration the night before and have fun with it.  

“We were still able to go out the night before and had spent a little bit of time socially-distanced the best that we can right now, but we still had a good time. Comradery is easy to have with the group of guys and gals that we have.”  

The group agreed they will continue to participate in the event and hope to be able to head to Calgary next year, if provincial protocols allow.   

This isn’t the last of stairclimbing challenges for Station 5. Wenzel and Lt. Coltin Batke are gearing up for the United States-based Leukemia Lymphoma Society (LLS) Firefighter Stairclimb on Saturday, May 15.  

Wenzel was ready to go to the event last year before it was cancelled one week before the big day. With it going virtual this year, Wenzel plans to head to Walsh Field with his gear on to complete the challenge and Batke decided to join him.  

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle

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