Bremerton firefighter to do stair climb for son, “my hero”

Fire district omitted: South Kitsap Fire and Rescue also will be participating in the stair climb. The original post omitted this information. C. Henry, March 3

We here at the Kitsap Sun have a lot of interaction with firefighters. Every evening one of us calls all the local stations to ask if there’s anything of note. If they (and the community) are lucky, the firefighter on the other end of the line will answer, “Nothing sparkling here!” Sometimes we get to hear what they’re cooking for dinner. We also encounter them out of the scene of a fire, where — in the event of a big fire — conditions are dangerous and trying.

Yesterday, we got news that Rob Smith, a Bremerton firefighter and Port Orchard resident, will be doing the annual Scott Firefighter Stairclimb of Seattle’s Columbia Center on Sunday, in honor of his 4-year-old son, Hunter, who has been in treatment for leukemia at Tacoma’s Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital and Medical Center.

The annual event benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society will draw 1,550 firefighters from 281 departments in 27 states, Canada and New Zealand to vie for world title. Participants must climb 69 floors — that’s 1,311 steps or 788 feet in vertical elevation — wearing more than 50 pounds of “bunker” gear used to fight fires. It is the 20th year of the stair climb.

Hunter will be recognized along with 16-year-old Breonia Adam of Stayton, Ore., as the climb’s honored patients.

Smith, 31, who drives Engine #2 at Station 2 on Kitsap Way and Highway 3, is a 7-year veteran of the event. He and his wife, Jaymi — both graduates of South Kitsap High School — detail on the event website the harrowing last two years of their lives, since Hunter was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

“We weren’t prepared for Hunter’s diagnosis,” Smith is quoted as saying in a press release on behalf of the stair climb. “It took the stair climb for us to be willing to branch out for additional help.”

The Smiths received assistance from the LLS through its patient services program, which helps families work through a blood cancer diagnosis with access to resources, peer support and financial assistance.

Today, following successful treatment, Hunter is in remission and back to playing T-Ball, and watching hockey and soccer. And he’s back on track to becoming a firefighter like his dad. “He really is my hero,” said Smith.

Smith is one of 10 firefighters participating from Bremerton Fire Department. Other Kitsap, Mason and Jefferson county firefighters taking part in the stair climb hail from Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue (9), East Jefferson Fire Rescue (4), Mason County Fire District #2 (4), McCleary Fire Dept. (9), Poulsbo Fire Dept. (5), Bainbridge Island Fire Dept. (3), Bremerton Fire Dept. (10), Browns Point Fire Dept. (4), Navy Region Northwest Fire & Emergency (16), Port Ludlow Fire and Rescue (17).

Here’s more from the press release from McQuaid & Co. Strategic Communications:

The firefighter-to-beat is two-time champion Kory Burgess of Montana. The 29-year-old Missoula firefighter captured the 2010 crown in just 11 minutes, 1.35-seconds, while 43-year-old Georgia Sanz Daniels of Graham Fire and Rescue near Tacoma won her 12th women’s title in just 14 minutes, 51.9 seconds. …

At 943 feet, about one-and-a-half times the height of Seattle’s Space Needle, the Columbia Center is the tallest building (by stories) on the West Coast and the 57th tallest building in the world. …

Leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are types of cancer that can affect the bone marrow, the blood cells, the lymph nodes and other parts of the lymphatic system. These cancers are all related since each are likely a result from acquired changes to the DNA of a single stem cell.

An estimated 912,938 Americans are living with leukemia, Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, myeloma and myelodysplastic syndromes. According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated combined total of 137,260 people in the United States will be diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma in 2011 with one person in the US being diagnosed with a blood cancer approximately every four minutes. New cases of leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma will account for 9 percent of the 1,529,560 new cancer cases diagnosed in the US this year alone.

Climbing gets underway at 9 a.m. In 2010, the world firefighter stairclimbing event raised over $780,000 and $3.4 million since its inception in 1992. …

How to Help: Although the event is open only to firefighters the public can contribute to a local firefighter or firehouse participating in the Scott Firefighter Stairclimb. To contribute, please visit www.FirefighterStairclimb.org .

On Sunday, March 20, the public can tackle the same Columbia Center steps at the 25th annual Big Climb, which also benefits LLS. To register for the Big Climb, visit www.BigClimb.org .

The Scott Firefighter Stairclimb is sponsored by Scott Health & Safety, CAC Real Estate Management Co. Inc., McCormick’s Fishhouse and Bar, Lion Apparel, Firehouse.com, Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Alaska Airlines, Talking Rain, Columbia Tower Club, True North, Dragon Fur, Service Master Clean, fado Irish Pub & Restaurant.
About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. The LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world and provides free information and support services.

About the Washington/Alaska Chapter
The Washington/Alaska Chapter (www.lls.org/wa ) is one of 60 local chapters across the U.S., with an additional 11 chapters in Canada. Located in Seattle since 1984, the Washington/Alaska Chapter is close to the treatment facilities where patients and families come for lifesaving therapies. Major annual fundraising campaigns include Team In Training®, Light The Night® Walk, School & Youth ProgramsSM, the Scott Firefighter Stairclimb, Big Climb, Winter Pineapple Classic and The Leukemia Cup Regatta.

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