ILWACO - Wearing about 75 pounds of full "combat gear," Ilwaco Volunteer Fire Department first responder and firefighter Johnny Phillips participated in the 12th annual Firefighter Challenge March 16 at the American Bank Tower in Seattle.
Phillips climbed 69 flights of stairs in 29 minutes, assisted by coach and bottle-changer Jamie Sowers. The event is a fund-raiser for leukemia and lymphoma research.
Eight hundred firefighters from 12 Washington counties participated in the event this year but only a handful of volunteer departments were represented. This is the first time an IVFD member has gone to the annual challenge.
"It was a neat experience," Phillips said. "It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I guess I'm just a glutton for punishment." Phillips' 8-year-old son Dakota went along to watch the excitement.
Phillips said a firefighter who had participated in the event several times told him "There's no way to train for this, you just do it."
Firefighters wear full turnout gear including air bottles, a helmet, pants and boots. The fastest time to the top was 12 minutes. "He was an animal," Phillips said.
Three Pacific County Fire District 1 firefighters also participated in the event: Mike Karvia, Rodney Harrington and David Allsup.