Northland firefighters stamped their mark on this year's Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge by raising more than $65,000 for charity and nabbing some top podium finishes.
Around 945 firefighters at this year's popular event raised nearly $1,370,000 for Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand – a whopping half a million dollars more than last year.
In the 17 years the event has been running firefighters from around the country have raised more than $10 million to support patients and their families living with blood cancers and related blood conditions.
A golf fundraising day and six months of early Saturday mornings at the Whangārei Farmers Market saw the Onerahi Volunteer Fire Brigade collect a staggering $16,179 for the charity.
This was in addition to a separate fundraising drive they completed for Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand which saw them donate $13,000 last November.
The team's leader, Steve Jennings, marking his fourth year as a competitor in the event, said the experience was about giving back to the community.
"It just shows the spirit of the community. For a small community like Onerahi, and Whangārei even, to be able to provide so much for people in need – well, that means a s***load for the guys on the team."
Kerikeri's volunteer firefighters raised more than $10,000 and were closely followed by Waipū with $8284 donated.
Being able to help boost the great work of such a vital charity is only one perk of the challenge, Jennings said.
The other was the camaraderie firefighters experienced between one another as they tackled the gruelling 1130 steps of the Sky Tower while weighed down by 25kg of full firefighting kit.
"It's a family type of atmosphere. We're all there to support each other and have a laugh together."
Jennings said one of the hardest parts of the challenge was avoiding heat stroke as the firefighting kit traps body heat inside.
Five Northland firefighters overcame the brutal conditions to claim a top-three finish in their division.
Ruawai volunteer firefighter Jo Forsythe won the female Donned and Started Grand Masters division as she conquered the tower in full firefighter gear breathing through a breathing apparatus with a time of 15 minutes and 53 seconds.
Whangārei firefighter Ady Mckenzie's rapid 12 minutes and 56 seconds while in full kit and using breathing apparatus awarded her two first-place finishes in the female Donned and Started Masters and Open divisions.
Kaikohe's Catherine Beazley's time of 17 minutes and two seconds earned her second place in the female Donned Masters.
Months of training paid off for Maungatūroto's Glenn Orford as his firefighting kit and breathing apparatus failed to slow him down in the male Donned and Started Grand Masters division. He had the third-fastest time of 12 minutes and three seconds.
And in the Firefighter of Steel division - where competitors add an extra 6kg on top of the 25kg they're already wearing and go up another 10 floors – Marsden 22 (Refinery) firefighter Paul Austin's time of 15 minutes and 57 second saw him finish third.