Onerahi volunteer firefighter Brian Clancey didn't break any records for running up all 1103 steps of Auckland's Sky Tower in full firefighting kit - but he did just about top the nation for his fundraising efforts.
The senior firefighter raised $9094 for Luekaemia and Blood Cancer, the second highest individual tally of the 700 firefighters taking part in the gruelling Firefighter Sky Tower Challenge.
It continued a good run for Mr Clancey, who was the country's third best fundraiser in the previous two challenges.
His secret to fundraising success is the huge customer list acquired by his automotive upholstery business over the past 30 years.
"So I go and sit in their offices and don't leave until they give some money. And there's some very generous people out there," he said.
It helped that every cent donated went to the cause, so people knew no one was scraping off 20 per cent for themselves.
Motivation was not hard to find because his own family had been "knocked around by cancer quite a bit".
Mr Clancey, who turns 60 next month, clocked a respectable time of 16 minutes 52 seconds in the May 17 event. That placed him 25th in the grand masters division for firefighters aged 50-plus.
He expected a good ranking next year because organisers were planning a new division for firefighters aged 60 and over.
"That means 95 per cent of my competition will disappear," he said.
Overall the event raised more than $880,000 with Northland firefighters contributing $55,725. Team Waipu raised a whopping $18,504 while first-time entrants Kerikeri Fire Brigade won an outstanding new brigade award for raising $4704 within four weeks of registering.
Among Northland's standout athletes this year were Julie Paget, of the Mangawhai Fire Brigade, who finished third in the masters division of the donned women's section; Alistair Leitch, of Kawakawa, who was fifth overall in the donned men's section; and Tanya Bijl, of Paihia, sixth in the women's donned and started section.
Their times were 23 min 17 sec, 12 min 16 sec, and 16 min, respectively.
'Donned' means climbing the stairs with 25kg of firefighting gear; 'donned and started' means carrying the gear and breathing from an air cylinder.
Ms Bijl, a dive instructor, said a back injury threw out her training, which was limited to running up the Opua steps. She had already started training for next year's event in the hope of being the fastest woman. Contesting the famously tough Cape Brett Challenge would be the "perfect preparation".
Luekaemia and Blood Cancer spokeswoman Georgie Hackett said raising more than $55,000 was a great achievement for Northland firefighters. The money would help people affected by blood cancers and related conditions through the organisation's national patient support services programme.
Northland brigades taking part this year were Hikurangi, Kaikohe, Kaiwaka, Kamo, Kawakawa, Kerikeri, Mangawhai, Marsden Refinery, Onerahi, Paihia, Ruakaka, Russell, Waipu and Whangarei.
The event is organised by Northlander Tony Scott from Pakaraka.
There are too many contestants to name them all, so these are just the Northland firefighters (with placings) who finished in the top 20 in their divisions of the stair climb.
Donned and started men (open): 17, Paul Austin, Marsden Refinery Brigade.
Donned and started men (masters): 18, Mike Neighbour, Kamo; 19, Jonathan Greener, Paihia.
Donned and started men (grand masters): 10, Wayne Timson, Kerikeri.
Donned men (open): 5, Alistair Leitch, Kawakawa.
Donned men (masters): 13, David Buttenshaw, Mangawhai.
Donned men (grand masters): 15, Michael Law, Kaiwaka; 19, Craig Bain, Hikurangi.
Donned and started women (open): 6, Tanya Bijl, Paihia.
Donned and started women (masters): 8, Lisa Rae, Ruakaka; 9, Piri Ranui, Waipu; 13, Aynsley Laurence, Marsden Refinery.
Donned women (open): 7, Lara Hastings, Kaikohe.
Donned women (masters): 3, Julie Paget, Mangawhai.
Donned and started teams: 12, Whangarei.
Donned teams: 14, Kaiwaka.