Plateau firefighters turn out big for Seattle stair climb

Maryn Otto, in both photos, was Enumclaw’s top female finisher during the annual Scott Firefighter Stairclimb. -      Photos by Joe Otto
Maryn Otto, in both photos, was Enumclaw’s top female finisher during the annual Scott Firefighter Stairclimb.
— image credit: Photos by Joe Otto

It took 57-year-old Enumclaw firefighter Deborah Morrison 29 minutes and 50.80 seconds to dash to the top of Seattle’s tallest building – the Columbia Center, with its 1,311 steps – during the annual Scott Firefighter Stairclimb.

Morrison, who has been a volunteer for the Enumclaw department for less that a year, was the oldest female competitor in the March 8, international event. She was one of 16 Enumclaw firefighters to participate in the annual fundraising event – five who were women. In all, 128 female firefighters were part of this year’s event.

The annual climb benefiting The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is recognized as the world’s largest individual firefighter competition. A record 1,556 firefighters – including representatives from the Enumclaw Fire Department, East Pierce Fire and Rescue and the Buckley Fire Department – traveled to Seattle from 25 U.S. states, three Canadian provinces, New Zealand and Germany to participate.

Clad in full bunker gear and breathing apparatus, collectively weighing about 50 pounds, firefighters ranging in age from 18 to 63 sprint-climbed the 788 feet in vertical elevation from the Fifth Avenue lobby to the 73rd floor observation deck of the Columbia Center. 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.

The event was won by Missoula Rural Fire’s Kory Burgess. Burgess, 27, of Lolo, Mont., clocked in at 10 minutes, 55.75 seconds, shattering the previous mark by more than 12 seconds.

The top local finisher was Enumclaw’s Lyle Bellah, 24, who reached the 73rd-floor finish line in 14:08.85 taking 31st place overall.

“I trained more,” said career-firefighter Bellah, who has been a Stair Climb participant for the past five years and set a personal best this year. “I dedicated a little more time to it.”

Teammate Joe Otto, 37, earned Enumclaw’s second-fastest time, racing to the top in 16:15.65.

This was the largest group of Enumclaw participants to accept the challenge in recent years, and many, both male and female, set personal-best times.

Enumclaw firefighters joining Bellah and Otto included Kyle Jacobson, 19, Mike Sanchez, 20, Alex Sneed 20, Adam Trepus, 23, Kevin Madill, 24, Michael Grabanski, 25, John Bloomer, 27, Patrick Kelly, 35, and Carl Murrell, 45.

Morrison was equally pleased for her fellow female firefighters, especially good friend Jeri Freeburg, who, at 48 years of age, finished the climb in 33:12.90.

Maryn Otto, 29, was Enumclaw’s top female finisher in 22:08.00. Nona Zilbauer, 34, was close behind in 23:18.40 and Sheree Good, 40, made the run in 36:49.80.

As usual, the Buckley Fire Department took a large contingent to Seattle, led by Chief Alan Predmore.

Jason Parlari, 31, posted the department’s top time, 18:30.20, and was followed closely by Don Baxter, 37, in 18:37.15.

Other Buckley fire participants included Nick Jackson, 25, Jared Barrett, 22, Mitch Mears, 21, Joe Skipworth, 19, Dean Mundy, 56, Colton Fogelberg, 20, Jeffrey Morse, 51, Will Folgelberg, 45, Jonathon Riggsby, 21, Tyler Stotts, 24, Jeremy Tost, 23, John Justice, 61, Justin Torres, 19, Matthew Riggsby, 25, and Evan Stone, 22.

Buckley’s female crew consisted of 19-year-old Caitlin Riggsby, Carli Haulet, 20, and Tami Tracy, 33.

When it comes to raising money, the Buckley Fire Department has been the team to beat.

Prior to 2004, Predmore said, the most money raised by any individual department was around $11,000. The Buckley department, by raising more than $17,000 and topping several other larger departments, set the bar for fundraising. The following year, Buckley did it again, bringing in more than any other department with $22,795.

Proving it was no fluke, in 2006 the group again took the top fundraising award, raising $37,113.

Finally, other teams started getting competitive, and in 2007, the Buckley department settled for the No. 2 spot with $36,477. But they weren’t done, returning to the top in 2008, raising $38,784.

Predmore said the event is about competition among firefighters, but more importantly it’s about raising money for a great cause and he’s proud of his department for the role it plays in motivating others.

This year’s economy made the fundraising portion of the event a tougher climb.

Fundraising statistics will not be available until April. Teams and individuals are allowed to continue fundraising through Friday. The Buckley Fire Department is accepting donations through its Web site at

Donations for the Enumclaw Fire Department can be dropped off at the station, 1330 Wells St., during regular business hours. Checks should be made out to the Luekemia and Lymphoma Society.

An estimated 894,543 Americans are living with leukemia, Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, myeloma and myelodysplastic syndromes. In 2008, an estimated 138,530 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma.

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