Fitness training in full firefighting gear isn't the unusual sight it might have once been.

Pukehina Firefighter Sharnie Harper is getting into shape for her first tilt at the Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge this weekend, and says she has had a few funny looks while out in her gear with an air cylinder on her back.

''But I've also heard people mutter, 'she must be training for Sky Tower', so they know what we are up to,'' says Sharnie.

The challenge involves climbing to the top of Auckland's Sky Tower - 1103 steps and 51 flights.


With places highly sought after, the event is always over-subscribed and, despite applying several times in the past, this is the first time Sharnie's application has been successful.

''Every time I've gone to register [in the past] it's always been full - I'm just lucky this time I guess,'' she says.

She is in the category where breathing apparatus, including the cylinder, has to be carried, but the mask does not need to be worn and says she is just happy to be there.

The annual event raises money for Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand and that is a major motivation for Sharnie.

''I had a mate that passed away from leukaemia and I've known other people also, so it's a close-to-the-heart cause and that's the reason I"m doing it.''

She also sees it as her personal tribute to the New York firefighters who died in 9/11.

Sharnie works in Tauranga, close to Tauranga Domain, so she has used the steps in the stands for training as well as the stairs in the Pukehina fire station. She has also trained at Pāpāmoa Hills and Mauao.

''I've done a lot of cardio training, a lot of stair climbs and a lot of leg work. In my weekends I really go anywhere that's got stairs.''


Training hasn't gone totally smoothly, part of it having been done with a broken arm.

Sharnie has beaten her $1000 fundraising target thanks to a number of fundraising events and contributions from friends, relatives and work colleagues.

A senior firefighter, she has been a member of Pukehina Brigade since 2002, although she had five years away from the brigade due to an unrelated injury.