Shoreline fire fighter created the Firefighter Stair Climb event at Columbia Center

Friday, March 19, 2010

By David Engler,
Shoreline Firefighter

In 1987, The Leukemia Society announced the inaugural Big Climb for Leukemia, to be held at the Columbia Center building in downtown Seattle. Put your running gear on and ascend the 788 feet, 1,311 steps, and 69 floors to the top to help raise monies.

I participated in 1987, 1988, and 1989. In 1990, I decided to do it “my way,” which was to don all 50 pounds of my firefighting gear and climb the stairs. In 1991, I returned to the Big Climb and once again climbed from the bottom to the top in all of my gear.

In 1992, I decided to throw down the challenge to area firefighters from 12 different fire departments to race me up the stairs. Every department I sent a challenge to responded by sending at least a few firefighters to participate in an event without any precedent. Thirty-four of us climbed the stairs, and together we donated a total of $1,200 to the Leukemia Society.

Over the years, the event participation has grown by leaps and bounds, drawing firefighters from about 40 states, and from as far away as New Zealand. The event is capped at 1,500 firefighters for logistical reasons, not including the hundreds of air bottle changers stationed on the 40th floor to switch full bottles for empty ones as the firefighters resume their climb to the top.

Last year The Firefighter Stairclimb raised $640,000 for the Leukemia Society. This is the 19thAnnual event. Thus far we have donated well over $2,000,000 to this worthy cause.

My goals when I created this event were threefold: Bring firefighters together in a competitive event, foster camaraderie within our profession, and raise money for a great cause.

Mission accomplished.

Photo of David Engler courtesy Shoreline Fire


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