A team of five firefighters from Levin Volunteer Fire Brigade has successfully conquered the annual Sky Tower challenge in Auckland, racing up more than 1100 stairs in full firefighting kit to raise money for charity.
The brigade fundraised around $4000 before the event, which is held to support Leukaemia and Blood Cancer NZ and which raised a massive $1.3 million overall and involved 1000 firefighters this year.
Rachelle Stout, Roger Atkinson, Hadley Buckley, Stuart Bailey and Terrence Griffen carried out the impressive feat, with sole female team member Stout clocking the fastest time from the Levin contingent.
Her time of 20 minutes 3 seconds put her just ahead of team leader Atkinson at 20 minutes 20 seconds, with Buckley and Bailey coming in at 21 minutes 23 seconds and 22 minutes 13 seconds respectively.
Griffen's time of 35 minutes 34 seconds reflected the fact he went above and beyond during the challenge to help a participant from another brigade who had collapsed on one of the stairwells, team leader Atkinson said.
The man had passed out due to dehydration and Griffen, along with several other competitors carried him up several flights of stairs to the nearest paramedic station and made sure he was recovering, before continuing on up the tower.
Griffen's time was still above average for the event, despite his extra effort, Atkinson said.
All of the Levin team were first-time participants in the challenge except Griffen, who had taken part six times previously.
"It was an awesome experience," Atkinson said. "I knew it was going to be hard, but when I got there the scale was incredible."
He said it was an amazing feeling to be among so many other firefighters, all of whom chose to be in the service for similar reasons and to help people.
"It was a surreal experience, I definitely want to do it again," he said.
"Everyone did a really good job, especially when over half the team are first-timers. Everyone was nervous but really glad we actually did it."
Atkinson said it was great to see his fellow team member Stout take part, as it was important for people to realise firefighting was not just a male occupation.
"We're trying to get rid of the stigma that it's a man's job," he said. "Rachelle is one of the few women in our brigade, and we are always keen for more female firefighters [to join]."
Atkinson said he had joined as a volunteer for a variety of reasons, including wanting to give back to his community.
"Growing up in Levin, I always heard the siren," he said. "I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself, something different where I could learn new skills and help people. I met a new family, I've travelled the country and learned a lot. It's like an amazing new life."