Climbers keep family close

By Zaryd Wilson

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STEP BY STEP: Operational support firefighters Aaron Whitford and Thomas Signal will be Whanganui's representatives at the Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge in Auckland later this month. PHOTO/STUART MUNRO
STEP BY STEP: Operational support firefighters Aaron Whitford and Thomas Signal will be Whanganui's representatives at the Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge in Auckland later this month. PHOTO/STUART MUNRO

Two Whanganui firefighters will have family members in mind as they haul themselves up the Sky Tower's 1103 steps in Auckland later this month.

The River City (Whanganui) Volunteer Operational Support Team will compete in the Sky Tower Stair Challenge on May 28.

The two-man team is made up of operational support firefighters Aaron Whitford and Thomas Signal.

The charity event raises money for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand and is particularly relevant to Mr Signal, who has lost several people close to him to the cancer, including his father-in-law last year.

"Basically, I'm saying they're doing it with me," he said. "It's a self-challenge thing but mainly I'm doing it for the father-in-law."

While it is Mr Signal's first time at the event, Mr Whitford will be doing it for a third time, having first tackled the stairs as a 17-year-old in 2010, and again last year.

"It's helping out people with leukaemia," Mr Whitford said. "I have had friends and family members, including my dad, who have passed away from other illnesses and cancers."

The firefighters climb 51 flights, a total of 1103 steps, wearing 25kg of gear, including breathing apparatus.

"It's like walking into a hot oven. With all your gear on you're cooking up and your legs are killing you. You just want to give up, but you can't."

The pair have been training since last December, using the tower block at City College and sometimes the Durie Hill Steps.

They hope to raise $2500 for the cause and already have $1352 to their name. They have been bucket-collecting at Caltex on Victoria Ave and holding sausage sizzles with the support of The Mad Butcher. The pair will also be fundraising at Trafalgar Square on May 14 and 21.

-To donate to the challenge, visit firefightersclimb.org.nz/

- Wanganui Chronicle

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