Kerikeri's volunteer firefighters are planning an all-out assault on Auckland's Sky Tower - and while they're at it they hope to raise at least $10,000 for leukaemia patients.
The annual Sky Tower Challenge sees firefighters from around the country race up the Auckland landmark's 1103 steps while weighed down with 25kg of gear and breathing from an air tank. At the same time each brigade competes to see how much they can raise for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand.
Kerikeri Fire Brigade will take part for the third time on May 28. Station officer Charlie Le Couteur said the brigade won an award for best first-time entry in 2014; last year they raised about $6000.
"This year we hope to raise at least $10,000 and we're encouraging locals to get behind us," he said.
The 10 volunteers who had signed up for the challenge would train every Wednesday and Thursday evening. After warming up in the fire station garden they would jog a few laps of the Domain, then run up and down the fire escape steps at the John Butler Centre. With 60 steps, just over 18 ascents will be equivalent to one Sky Tower.
Half a dozen members of the team would also work on their fitness later this month by competing in the gruelling Firefighters Combat Challenge in Whanganui.
That event involved running up stairs with a 20kg hose, dragging an 80kg dummy, using a sledgehammer, running a slalom course, operating a hose and more in less than minutes.
Alongside the physical training the firefighters would raise money through car washes, bucket collections and an auction of donated items. This year they also planned to use social media and invite businesses to donate or run their own fundraisers.
"We're trying to gear up and get the community behind us, like they've done in the past two years, but we want to take it to another level."
Station officer Ben Scott said last year's Sky Tower Challenge raised more than $1 million for Luekaemia and Blood Cancer NZ, the Fire Service's number-one charity.
"The goal is to show New Zealand how good Kerikeri is and how much support we have. The physical challenge is one aspect of it, it's also about going out and supporting the community."
The event also benefited the public by raising firefighters' fitness levels, making then better able to respond in emergencies.
Northland has a proud history in the Sky Tower Challenge, which was started by firefighter Tony Scott from Pakaraka. Paihia Fire Brigade topped the fundraising table five years in a row - a feat that has yet to be surpassed - and in 2015 Kaikohe claimed the community spirit trophy by raising $18,513 in their first year in the challenge, more than any other Northland brigade.
- If you want to donate to the Kerikeri Fire Brigade's campaign, or you have fundraising ideas, text Ben Scott on 027 244 1293 or Charlie Le Couteur on 021 578 801. They'll call you back. You can also email Charlie on firstname.lastname@example.org.