Running up 48 flights of stairs in 50 pounds of gear is a regular day for firefighters — but Saturday, it will be for charity.
In the inaugural Firefighter Stair Climb, firefighters, police, military personnel and fitness enthusiasts will band together to climb the Transamerica Pyramid to benefit the Bothin Burn Center, the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation and the San Francisco Firefighters’ Toy Program.
“This is one of those feel-good things. It’s a great fundraiser for important nonprofits,” San Francisco fire Lt. Mindy Talmadge said. “We are a group that challenges ourselves, and it isn’t unusual for us to climb up so many flights of stairs.”
The idea for the event began in Seattle in 1990, when local firefighter David Engler ran up the stairs of the Columbia Center in full gear as a means of improving his fitness. The following year, he was joined by 25 of his friends, and by the third year, participants were turned away because the building had reached its capacity of 1,500.
At the inaugural event — which takes place at 10 a.m. Saturday — the Transamerica Pyramid will likely draw a smaller crowd, but more than 300 climbers are expected to participate. Registration is still open for the event, and there is no limit to how many people can participate.
“We have to start slow and do what you can in terms of people and money,” said John Davis, event planner and member of 5th Alarm Events, a nonprofit founded and run by firefighters working to plan fundraisers like the San Francisco Stair Climb.
With the growing success of the Seattle events, local officials hope the San Francisco Stair Climb will follow a similar path.
“We want to make this event something that people will feel free to come to every year,” Davis said. “It is an opportunity for everyone to get together and have fun while raising money for charity.”
Those not participating in the physically demanding Stair Climb can cheer on the climbers, view fire engines and enjoy a barbecue on Washington Street. With all proceeds going to three local charities, the event will directly support the treatment and care of burn victims in the Bay Area. Past runs have raised $2.8 million.
“I am so happy to collaborate with the San Francisco Fire Department, and that they would think of us,” said Angela Gates of the Bothin Burn Center. “The funds raised will help us to continue to work closely with the other organizations to provide burn care to patients. It’s a win-win situation for all of us.”