Climbing for a cause

Sequim firefighters gear up for race to the top of Seattle’s Columbia Tower

The climb — all 69 floors and 1,356 steps — is work, no doubt about it … even for these emergency responders.

But to at least one Sequim resident, the long climb is very much worth it.

“First of all, being a firefighter, you want to help,” says Lee Oman, one of an eight-member crew of Clallam County Fire District 3 firefighters headed to Seattle on March 6 for the 25th Scott Firefighter Stair Climb.

“And it’s for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. That’s kind of our nature (to help),” he says.

Oman and fellow firefighters Stephanie Anderson, Joe Carter, Lee Forderer, Mike McAnaney (team captain), John McIntyre and Rebecca Yucha, plus team helper Len Horst, are just a handful of the nearly 2,000 men and women raising funds and racing to the top of the Columbia Center in downtown Seattle.

Funds raised go to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the world’s largest voluntary nonprofit health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research about leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma, and providing education and patient services since 1949.

In 2014, the society helped fund $79.8 million in research, including funding for 106 new grants to researchers in academic institutions and $15.9 million in contracts through the society’s Therapy Acceleration Program, according to the group’s website.

To participate, firefighters must pay an $80 registration fee and then a minimum of $300 to participate.

Oman says he and fellow team members have been training in the days leading up to the climb, with several using the long flight of stairs in downtown Port Angeles for workouts.

Not just an endurance challenge, the climb has firefighters wearing full regulation gear, including boots, pants, coat, helmet, gloves and oxygen bottles.

Top finishers from previous years get a chance to go first starting at 8 a.m. Sunday, with another entrant every 12 seconds. Top racers finish the 69 counter-clockwise stairs in as little as 10-11 minutes, while the average participant takes from 20-30 minutes to finish.

There are designated water stop teams stationed about every 10 floors and a bottle changing station on Floor 40, where Horst and others assist their team members.

Oman says it’s his third time climbing the tower and his third year as a Fire District 3 volunteer.

“For me, it’s not too bad,” Oman says. “It’s nice to help folks. Most times, we’re (on scene) helping people directly. This is kind of helping people indirectly.”

In 2015, the event featured 1,900 firefighters from more than 330 different departments and brought in a record $2.2 million for blood cancer research and patient services.

For more information about the climb, call 206-628-0777, e-mail or see