Local firefighter competes in stairclimb for a good cause
|Local fireman, Joe Johnson, competed in the 2013 Scott Firefighter Stairclimb to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Johnson raced up 1,311 steps in full firefighting gear. Photo submitted|
March 19 — Local firefighter Joe Johnson set out to prove he and other federally employed firefighters are made of the right stuff, and that’s exactly what he did when he finished the 2013 Scott Firefighter Stairclimb in the top 15 percent of competitors in his age group.
The Scott Firefighter Stairclimb takes place each year in downtown Seattle, Wash. More than 1,000 firefighters from all over the world race up the 1,311 steps of the Columbia Center in full structural firefighting gear (boots, pants, coats, gloves, helmets and a breathing apparatus). Participants are required to fundraise a certain amount of money prior to the event and proceeds support The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. According to the Scott Firefighter Stairclimb website, the stairclimb supports the mission of The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by raising money through sponsorships, individual and department fundraising and entry fees.
Johnson, who has been a fireman for 11 years, is currently stationed at Ravendale Fire Station. He spent 10 years as a member of the Diamond Mountain Hot Shot fire crew before deciding to transfer to an engine so he could spend less time traveling and more time with his daughter.
Johnson got the idea to compete in the stairclimb from his boss, whose brother has participated in the event for the past four years. “It started off kind of as a joke at work,” Johnson said. However, something that started as a joke quickly turned serious, as he became determined to compete in the stairclimb. According to Johnson, registration for the event opens online at a specific time and sells out almost immediately. Last year, the event sold out in about an hour. This year it sold out in 11 minutes. Luckily, Johnson was prepared and was able to complete his registration in about eight minutes.
Registering for the event was only the beginning for Johnson, who spent 12 weeks training for the physically grueling event.
“I did everything from CrossFit in full gear to the Versaclimber and running stairs. I went to Reno and ran the Grand Sierra,” he said. The Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nev. has 27 flights of stairs, compared to the Columbia Center’s 69. According to Johnson, the race actually ended on the 73rd floor. Johnson also mentioned that he ran, hiked and biked in full firefighting gear while training.
When the day of the race arrived, Johnson said he was nervous. Although he had wrestled and participated in small competitions before, he had never competed in an event as large and physically intense as the stairclimb.
“This was huge. This was the crown jewel, the big daddy. There were people from nine different countries. There were a lot of people,” he said.
However, his nervousness was quelled by all the friendly and welcoming people he met before the race began.
Overall, the race went well for Johnson who said he had a few minor hiccups, but still competed at a high level and made it to the finish. “I definitely was somewhat hypoxic by the time I got to the top, but it felt good,” Johnson said.
He finished the race number 157 out of 950 people in his age group.
“It was a competition and I really had to prove myself,” he said, “as far as I know, I’m the first federal employee to do this competition, so that was another incentive … to show that we can compete.”
There is no doubt Johnson reached his goal of competing at a high level and proving himself, all while supporting a noble cause.
For more information on the Scott Firefighter Stairclimb and a video of the event, visit www.llswa.org.