Martinborough volunteer firefighter Emily Abbot, 20, is taking on a lot of stairs to raise money for blood cancer. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

HAYLEY GASTMEIER
hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz

By day, 20-year-old Emily Abbot is a receptionist at Martinborough Health Centre.

But during the nights and at the weekends, when she hears that hair-raising siren go off, she’s serving her community as a volunteer firefighter.

This Saturday, she will be one of four firefighters from the Martinborough Fire Brigade to take on 51 flights of stairs – while being weighed down by 25kg worth of protective gear and a breathing apparatus.

The group will join about 950 other firefighters to compete in Auckland at the Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge, an annual fundraiser for the charity, Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand.

It will be the second time Emily has tested herself against the 1103 steps, and she is hoping to beat her previous time of just under 20 minutes.

At least one other Wairarapa-based firefighter is taking part – Alicia Terry, a volunteer for Masterton Fire Station.

The 27-year-old has taken training for the challenge seriously, donning her heaving firefighting kit while doing squats, lunges, and shuttle runs at her hockey fitness training sessions.

Five years a firefighter, Alicia works at Fire and Emergency New Zealand national headquarters in Wellington as a rural recruitment co-ordinator.

“The national headquarters is a 17-storey building so I was doing, a couple of times a week, three laps of it and that equates to 51 flights.”

Back in Martinborough, Justin Hudepohl has been training on a flight of stairs he built himself.

Robert Brown and Annah Rait from the brigade are also entering the event.

Emily has been tackling her 13 stairs at home, as well as doing CrossFit to ready herself.

She joined the Martinborough Fire Brigade in 2016.

“You learn so much stuff about firefighting and it’s so amazing to be able to help the community while challenging myself individually.”

The job, however, was confronting at times.

“Seeing people when they’re afraid and facing hardship – that’s probably the hardest part – but there’s great support and not really too much of a bad side to it to be honest.”

The Martinborough brigade aims to raise $6000 before the event, and they are almost there with more than $5680 in donations.

So far, nearly $1 million has been raised nationally this year.

Emily said it was awesome to be able to support an important charity which did not receive any government funding.

Every year, about 2200 Kiwis were diagnosed with a blood cancer – the cause of which was unknown.

The fundraising challenge has been held at the Sky Tower, the tallest building in the southern hemisphere, since 2005.