For most people heading up five or six flights of stairs would tend to be a bit hard on the system.

So the thought of taking on 51 flights of stairs would be out of the question ... unless you are one of the 1000 determined and devoted fundraising firefighters across the country, like Napier volunteer firefighter Jono Claybourn, who this Saturday will take part in the Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge in Auckland.

"Yeah it is a big test," he said, adding that he was determined to once again make it up the 1103 individual steps while bearing a full firefighting kit which includes a steel air cylinder weighing around 25kg.

He was going to carry a lighter alloy job but wanted to push it a bit further as it would be his 10th challenge, and he had also turned 50 this year.


Like all the committed firefighters and teams involved, including some from overseas, there was no question about taking part as the cause for it all was so valuable.

Every year 100 teams of fire crew from across the country embark on fundraising drives for Leukemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand, and since the first challenge was sparked up in 2005 the devoted teams consistently raise about $1 million.

And as has been the case since they began taking part, the Napier and Hastings fire crews and individuals have always been on or near the top of the fundraising leaderboard.

At this point Napier tops the 100-team list with $22,921 raised for the cause and Hastings is third with $20,647.

Napier topped the leaderboard last year with $25,453 raised and Claybourn said the way things were going they would go past that as the challenge wrapped up the 2019 campaign.

And Hastings firefighter Kevin Hodges was top individual (not in a team) fundraiser in 2018 with $7228 while fellow Hastings firefighter Ken Laurie was top individual (in a team) fundraiser with $14,040, and Claybourn third with $10,269.

"It is really great for the Hawke's Bay region," he said.

Team Napier's fundraising efforts over the past year have included everything from traditional shaking of buckets, garden clearing, auctions and dinners — and even tree-felling.


Volunteer senior firefighter Brad Edwards and volunteer firefighter Adam Birchfield had done the garden duties, and would continue to do so over the next year for the 2020 fundraising target.

All for the cause.

They also have two auctions running on TradeMe which have an activity passage prize of a Hooters vintage car tour with Gin Trap vouchers and Ocean Spa vouchers, and the opportunity to win a crew of up to five firefighters for a four-hour work detail.

Local businesses and sponsors had always been fully supportive of the cause
Gearing up for this Saturday's great and challenging climb had been full on, Claybourn said.

"You have to put in a lot of hard work and everyone is up for it because you just want to be involved."

This year, with 13, Napier has one of the largest teams in the event.

"The challenge has become so popular over the years — it's usually a scramble to get your name on the list."

He knows what's coming and knows how gruelling it gets as the steps keep appearing ahead, floor after floor, in the around 15-minute ascent.

"You just have to be constant — slow and steady — and the body will do it if the brain tells it to," he said.

"And you do it for the cause."