Climbers on fire

Camperdown CFA volunteers Stephen Russell, Joe O’Connor, Jack McKenzie and Kane Veenstra donned full fire-fighting kit and raced up 28 flights of stairs to help raise funds for mental health support initiatives.

AN energetic team of six district firefighters has added more than $5000 towards mental health support initiatives after they scaled 28 flights of stairs in full kit.

Camperdown CFA volunteers Kane Veenstra, Jack McKenzie, Steven Russell, Joe O’Connor and Nissa Pender along with Lismore CFA member Grayson Tanner scaled the stairs as part of the Melbourne Firefighter Stair Climb at the Crown Metropolitan Hotel last weekend.

All six participants completed the gruelling challenge, which involved 650 firefighters with the aim of raising $700,000 to be divided between Lifeline and the Black Dog Institute.

First-timers Mrs Pender and Mr Tanner completed the challenge in times of 6.33 and 6.21 minutes respectively.

Repeat challengers, Mr Russell, Mr O’Connor, Mr McKenzie and Mr Veenstra, who competed with full breathing apparatus in use, clocked times of 9.59, 10.57, 16.23 and 7.17 minutes respectively.

The Camperdown contingent raised $3693 through sponsorship, while Mr Tanner raised $1423, giving an overall fundraising tally of $5116.

Camperdown CFA volunteer Nissa Pender and Lismore CFA volunteer Grayson Tanner get ready to scale 28 flights of stairs.

Mrs Pender said the climb was “nerve-racking” to begin with, not knowing how hard it was going to be.

“I didn’t stop because I thought I wouldn’t start again,” she said.

“Grayson and I ran together and urged each other on – it was a great feeling when we reached the top.

“I came sixth out of 146 participants in the Women’s Under 40 category, so I’m really happy with that.

“Now I can’t wait for next year to see if I can beat that time.”

Mrs Pender said a “pretty emotional’ firefighter memorial was held prior to the stair climb.

“They read out the names of all the firefighters who have lost their lives and held a minute’s silence in their honour,” she said.

“It was a really great day and something we’re proud to have been a part of.

“It was also a great thing to do as a brigade, bringing us closer together and strengthening friendships.”

Mr Grayson said the climb had been tough going.

“It wasn’t easy, but it was good to push my limits,” he said.

“It was a great experience – definitely something I’ll be signing up for again next year.”

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