One step at a time to beat cancer

Firefighters mount stairs in full gear to raise funds for research

By Paul Suarez, Columbian freelance



You can help

To learn more about the Scott Firefighter Stair Climb, an annual fundraiser for the Lymphoma & Leukemia Society, or to donate, visit or

photoSlips of paper contain information about Fire District 6 firefighters’ participation in the stair climb fundraiser.


photoSquires is preparing to climb the 1,311 steps 788 feet to the top of Seattle’s Columbia Center on March 11.


Clark County firefighters are fighting cancer one step at a time.

Personnel from Clark County Fire District 6 and the Vancouver Fire Department stopped by local Fred Meyer stores on Saturday to take turns climbing a StairMaster in full firefighting gear. It’s a way to raise funds and practice for the Scott Firefighter Stair Climb, an annual fundraiser for the Lymphoma & Leukemia Society.

The cause has a personal meaning to Scott Squires, a firefighter with Clark County Fire District 6, who was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2004.

He kicked the cancer a few years back after chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He says he benefitted from the fundraising efforts of others.

“This is kind of my way of paying it forward,” he said.

Squires worked the StairMaster in front of the Hazel Dell Fred Meyer on Saturday morning. He hopes the group’s efforts will raise at least $1,000 for the organization.

“It’s good for us to give back,” he said.

Also preparing for next weekend’s big event were firefighters with the Vancouver Fire Department. They set up exercise equipment in front of the Grand Central Fred Meyer near Pearson Airport on Saturday. They’ll be out again Sunday at the Fisher’s Landing store at 16600 S.E. McGillivray Blvd.

“Every year, it’s been very well received,” said Vancouver Capt. Scott Willis of the Fred Meyer practice runs. “We get a lot of compliments and get to talk to a lot of people who are curious.”

Willis started doing the Scott Firefighter Stair Climb in 1995. On March 11, Willis and his colleagues will climb 69 floors in Seattle’s Columbia Center that translates to 1,311 steps and 788 vertical feet.

It’s challenging, especially considering firefighters must wear full firefighting equipment, which weighs about 65 pounds, he said.

“The biggest thing on top of the weight … is the heat buildup,” Willis said. “Firefighter gear is completely waterproof,” which means water doesn’t get in and sweat doesn’t get out.

Willis said the fastest time to the top was between 11 and 13 minutes; the slowest climbers took more than an hour.

His best time was 18:57, but that was a few years ago, he said.

Some of the Vancouver firefighters do pretty well in the competition, which draws from departments across the country, said Capt. Shawn Newberry, with Fire District 6.

Newberry made it to the top in 22 minutes last year, his first time participating in the Seattle event.

“When you get into the stairwell, its exhilarating,” he said. “Your heart’s pumping; you’ve been trained for this.”

Photos of cancer survivors and victims line the stairwell walls and keep you motivated, he said.

“It’s definitely difficult,” Newberry said. “It’s a heck of a workout.”

It’s worth it, lymphoma survivor Squires said.

“It’s a short amount of pain,” compared with what people go through when fighting cancer, he said.

Paul Suarez: 360-735-4522;;