Firefighter Bellah among top stair climbers

Enumclaw Fire Department’s Lyle Bellah climbed to the top finish among 10 local competitors during the 19th annual Scott Firefighter Stairclimb in Seattle. The March 7 climb to the 73rd floor of Seattle’s tallest building is recognized as the largest individual firefighter competition in the world and benefits The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The event drew 1,555 firefighters from the U.S., Canada, Germany and New Zealand.

Bellah, 25, reached the 73rd floor of the Columbia Center in 14 minutes, 55.90 seconds to finish 58th overall. He was the only Enumclaw climber to crack the event’s top 100. Nona Zilbauer, 35, was the top local female competitor. She finished in 26:35.30.

“It definitely helps to have done this before,” said Enumclaw firefighter Jeri Freeburg, who made her third climb in three years and was one of four local women to make the climb. “I had a little bit of fear between (floors) 50 and 60. But once you get there, you know you got it.

“The pictures on the different floors are motivating,” she said referring to images of blood cancer survivors that were placed by race organizers on each of the 69 floors in the building’s stairwell. “These people deal with the pain of cancer every day. This is just temporary for us.”

The Buckley Fire Department, which was the No. 3 fundraiser in 2009, took 21 firefighters to the event with 32-year-old Jason Parlari earning the station’s top time with a 16:27.85.

The event winner, Kory Burgess, 28, of Missoula Rural Fire, one of three Missoula firefighters to finish among the top four climbers, scaled 69 stories – 1,311 steps in 11:01.35. He clocked the second fastest time in the 19-year history of the event, falling just 5.6 seconds short of his 2009 record.

The women’s climb was won for the 12th time by Georgia Sans Daniels of Graham Fire and Rescue in Washington state. Daniels, 42, who clocked a 14:51.90 on the Columbia Center steps, has won the event in 12 of the past 13 years, missing only the 2008 climb to celebrate her 40th birthday.

Clad in full bunker gear and breathing apparatus, collectively weighing about 50 pounds, firefighters ranging in age from 18 to 68 sprint-climbed 788 feet in vertical elevation (1,311 stairs/69 stories) from the Fifth Avenue lobby to the 73rd floor observation deck. 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.

With three weeks of fundraising remaining, firefighters from the 256 competing departments have already raised more than $500,000. In 2009, the event raised $640,000 and has tallied $2.7 million since its inception in 1982.

Sunday, the public can tackle the same Columbia Center steps at the 24th annual Big Climb, which also benefits LLS. To register for the Big Climb, visit

An estimated 912,938 Americans are living with leukemia, Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, myeloma and myelodysplastic syndromes. In 2009, an estimated 138,860 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma.

The local finishers were:


1. Lyle Bellah, 25, 14:55.90; 2. Carl Murrell, 46, 18:04.95; 3. Patrick Kelly, 36, Buckley, 24:09.15; 4. Nona Zilbauer, 35, 26:35.30; 5. John Bloomer, 28, 27:24.00; 6. Maryn Otto, 30, 31:54.65; 7. Sheree Good, 41, 32:42.85; 8. Tyler Stotts, 25, 38:34.05; 9. Jeri Freeburg, 48, 42:57.55; 10. Michael Grabanski, 26, 1:07:41.35.

Black Diamond

1. Tim Tatum, 31, 23:25.15.

Buckley Fire Department

1. Jason Parlari, 32, 16:27.85; 2. Don Baxter, 38, 18:32.15; 3. Nick Jackson, 26, 18:49.25; 4. Dean Mundy, 57, 21:56.10; 5. Jared Barrett, 23, 22:10.05; 6. Jonathon Riggsby, 22, 22:46.50; 7.Colton Fogelberg, 21, 23:23.15; 8. Justin Torres, 20, 24:15.30; 9. Joe Skipworth, 20, 24:46.00; 10. Jeffrey Morse, 52, 26:22.60; 11. Will Fogelberg, 46, 27:23.15; 12. David Tracy, 59, 29:18.00; 13. Jeremy Tost, 24, 31:22.00; 14. Caitlin Riggsby, 20, 31:46.35; 15. Alan Predmore, 47, 36:33.70; 16. Dawn Felt, 36, 36:56.35; 17. Lucas Ross, 31, 37:56.10; 18. Kyla George, 20, 40:53.80; 19. Kevin Boyles, 23, 45:25.80; 20. Matthew Riggsby, 26, 46:51.05; 21. Angela Riggsby, 46, 49:43.20.

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