Portland firefighters aid lung association in stair climb challenge

Posted Jan. 10, 2012, at 5:30 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — In 2009 and 2010, the Local 740 Portland Fire Department returned to Maine with the Race Up Boston Place firefighter trophy in tow. In 2011, the group was defeated by the Needham Fire Department in Massachusetts by a mere 18 seconds.

For the past four years in Boston, people have come from near and far to cheer on fire departments from all over New England as they take to the stairs, in full gear, to raise funds for the American Lung Association.

Firefighters have a special tie to the American Lung Association mission. For centuries, they have willingly taken on buildings engulfed in flames and smoke in order to save lives.

A few years ago, Chris Tillotson participated in a stair-climb event in Orlando. After he finished, he went online to find similar events closer to his home state of Maine. That’s when he came across the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb held annually in Boston. That first year, Tillotson brought the idea to his fellow firefighters and seven of them raced with him to the top of One Boston Place. Over the past four years, their team, led by Tillotson, has expanded a bit. Tillotson is hopeful that others in the department will catch on.

“We come back and talk about what a great weekend we had and before you know, everyone wants to be a part of it,” he said.

The guys from the Local 740 raised $10,760 in 2010, giving the team the title of Highest Fundraising Team. Last February, with $9,815 secured in donations, Portland Fire ranked second in team fundraising among more than 180 teams. This year, the group hopes to reclaim its designation as the highest fundraisers.

Because the team members all have varying work schedules and live different lifestyles, training as a team can be difficult. Franklin Towers, the tallest building in Maine, encompasses 16 stories, and the men found time to use the building in their training for the last stair climb. Mostly, team members take part in a lot of running and circuit training to prepare for such an event — often in full gear.

The 2012 Race Up Boston Place stair climb will be held Feb. 4 at One Boston Place in the Mellon Financial Building. Participants are responsible for a $35 registration fee and a $100 fundraising minimum. Proceeds benefit lung disease research, advocacy and programs and anti-tobacco and clean air initiatives in Massachusetts. For information, visit c limbofyourlife.org.

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