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Firefighters face towering challenge

Martinborough firefighters Melinda Coleman, left, and Rob Brown are competing in the Sky Tower Challenge. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER


By Hayley Gastmeier

[email protected]

Imagine climbing the Auckland Sky Tower dressed in 25 kilogrammes of gear.

Well, that is exactly what six Wairarapa firefighters will be doing next month.

In their full firefighting kit, including air apparatus, a team from the Martinborough Volunteer Fire Brigade will attempt to complete the Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge in 25 minutes — before their air supply runs out.

“The fastest people, who compete in it each year will be able to do it in under nine minutes,” says Robert Brown and Melinda Coleman, two of the Martinborough firefighters who will be taking on the 51 flights of stairs.

The other Martinborough firefighters competing in the event are Annah Rait, Emily Abbot, Zoe Sinclair and Brad Alridge.

It will be the first time the brigade has participated in the annual charity event, which raises funds for Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand.

So far, the team has raised $3384.30, but Mr Brown and Mrs Coleman say they hope to beat their goal of $5000.

The pair have been training hard to increase their cardio resilience.

Mr Brown said although the challenge would be a test of physical strength, the main game was about “mental toughness” — just like fighting a house fire in “350 degree plus” temperatures.

Mrs Coleman said it was about focusing on the end goal.

“With us running up the stairs doing all that cardio, it will be similar circumstances because we’re going to be super-hot and running out of air.

“But we’ve got a goal to get to the top, as opposed to putting the fire out and making the surrounding area and people safe.”

The challenge, which has already pulled in over $500,000 through donations nationwide, will be held on May 13.

Both Mr Brown, who works at P&K Supermarket, and Mrs Coleman, who works at Property Brokers Martinborough, say they have received “incredible support” from their employees.

“The fire brigade is a visible part of the community,” said Mr Brown, who joined the brigade in 2015 as a way “to engage with the community”.

“Being able to contribute in such a positive way is just incredible,” he said.

The Martinborough brigade had a wide patch to cover, from Bidwell’s Cutting Rd to Ngawi, and covered a diverse range of incidents, from fatal vehicle crashes to serious or minor medical events.

Mrs Coleman also loved her role as firefighter, saying she got “heaps out of it”.

“You gain confidence, and there’s a real family atmosphere,” she said.

“You all work together to support something else other than just yourselves — you’re supporting the community.

“You’re there for some people on the worst day of their lives, and you’re there to help make it better, or share that day with them while doing your best to do whatever you can to help.”

Mrs Coleman said everyone was in one way or another affected by cancer, so by donating to the cause people were “giving back to themselves and their families”.

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