Kingsley Field Fire Department Triumphs at Seattle Stair Climb

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Jennifer Shirar
  • 173rd Fighter Wing

On March 11, 2018 fire fighters from the Kingsley Field Fire Department placed third in the 27th Annual Seattle Stair Climb to raise money for leukemia and lymphoma research. Additionally, Assistant Fire Chief of Training, Derek Sherrell, placed second in the event with a time of 10:58, three seconds behind the first place climber. 

This highly competitive event features more than 2,000 professional, trained firefighters who compete on more than 200 individual teams.

“Many spend years training for this specific event in the Pacific Northwest, the competition is fierce and the goal is to raise money for cancer research, and be the top dog…or top fire dawg!” said Howard Owens, Kingsley Field Deputy Fire Chief. 

The event is a 69-story stair climb wearing full firefighting gear and breathing from an oxygen tank. Only the top competitors climb 1,356 steps—788 vertical feet, without changing oxygen tanks.

This is Sherrell’s 10th year participating in this event.

“He trains daily and encourages and motivates his Kingsley brothers to do the same,” said Owens. 

When asked about his accomplishment, Sherrell shrugs it off and tries shift the focus off himself. 

“To me this event means community,” said Sherrell.  “It is a way for us as a fire service family to come together as one team to raise money and awareness to blood cancers.”

He points to a statistic showing the two leading causes of firefighter fatalities on and off duty are cancer and cardiac related incidents.

“By training for this event and raising money for research, we combat both of these issues,” added Sherrell.

This event also has a personal significance for the Kingsley Fire Fighters.  One of their very own fire fighters, Tim Van Leeuwen, was diagnosed with a blood cancer in 2016. 

Van Leeuwan has been returned to full duty status, and was even able to participate in the event for the second year in a row as a survivor battalion climber.

“I am inspired to raise money and push my physical limits to show support for Tim, as well as all people who have lost their battles to blood cancers, those fighting the battle today, and all who will be diagnosed in the future,” says Sherrell. 

This year’s stair climb was successful in raising approximately 2.4 million dollars.  The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which organizes the event, has raised approximately one billion dollars total for cancer research.

The individuals that participated with Sherrell in this year’s event included:  Captain’s Vince Lombardo, Derrick Laughlin, and Dan Bigham, and Fire Fighters Tim Van Leeuwen, Fred Heavilin, Ryan Barnes, Mathew Knitter, Nathan Markee, and Jesse Mullaney.

“This was a true team event from our fire and emergency services,” added Owens.  “Even the members that were not able to make the trip to support the climbers, volunteered to work backfill at home and support the 173rd Fighter Wing mission.”

The Kingsley Field Fire Department is responsible for delivering fire services to the flying mission of the 173rd Fighter Wing, as well as providing mutual aid for the Klamath County community.