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East Pierce firefighters reach to the sky in stair climb fund raiser for leukemia and lymphoma

By Teresa Herriman, The Courier-Herald

A four-man team from East Pierce Fire & Rescue was among the more than 800 firefighters who completed the Bank of America Tower Climb March 7. Participants from as far away as New Zealand raced up 69 flights of stairs of Seattle's tallest skyscraper in full firefighting gear and breathing apparatus to raise money for the Washington/Alaska Chapter of The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

First-timer, Eric McLeroy, 36, led his team with a time of 18 minutes, 41 seconds.

In honor of his fourth year competing in the event, Larry Nye, 32, was one of the few firefighters who climbed the tower twice. He finished in 21:34, got cleared by the medics for the second climb and completed it two minutes faster than the first.

The other East Pierce participants, Rex Orcutt, 21, and Mike Westland, 30, finished in 25.50 and 28:10, respectively.

Westland, who has leukemia, also served as the 2004 Honor Patient with Katie Gunsolus. However, he said his only duty that day was to climb. He said his time was this year was four minutes faster than his previous time two years ago.

Each participant is fitted with a timing chip on the wrist which records the start and finish times.

This year the fastest time was 11 minutes, 10 seconds, posted by Mark Knokey of the Spokane Valley Fire Department. That breaks down to nine seconds per story.

"He was double-stepping it," Westland said.

The fastest female finisher was Graham firefighter, Georgiasanz Daniels. Two other Central Pierce Fire & Rescue female firefighters finished in the top 10 among the women participants.

Teresa Herriman can be reached at therriman@courierherald.com

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