A fire, rather light, was shed on just how fit Cochranites really are last weekend.
Of the 568 firefighters who competed in the annual Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge, four of the top 10 competitors were Cochranites and Cochrane Mayor Jeff Genung, who 'Challenged the Chief' came in 45th place with a time of 14 minutes and 48 seconds – but first place as top fundraiser, finishing off with $16,000 earned for Wellspring Calgary to provide supports for families facing cancer.
Of the top 10, this includes Cochrane Fire Services members Firefighter Eric Paxman in seventh place with a time of 12 minutes and 47 seconds and Cpt. Derek Orr in eighth place with a time of 12 minutes and 54 seconds.
The first place climber, Geoff Pyke with 11 minutes and 31 seconds for time and third place climber Travis Francoeur are both Cochrane residents with the Calgary Fire Department.
"It was intense," laughed Genung, a 13-time Ironman competitor who had never done a competition quite like the firefighter challenge – which entailed 775 vertical feet (1204 steps) up the Bow Tower in Calgary with some 60 pounds of full firefighter gear strapped on. Beginning at 3400 feet above sea level, this is the highest elevation stairclimb in the world.
"My goal was to do it under 20 minutes ... I was pleasantly surprised," he said, adding that he is "really proud" of the Cochrane firefighters and was impressed by the group's camaraderie and support.
Senior firefighter Chris Chyka was among the climbers – broken into Cochrane Fire Team One and Cochrane Fire Team Two.
Chyka said their teams had "the most successful" fundraising efforts of more than $5,000 this year. Added to the mayor's total, the sum was over $21,000 – a big serving of support from Cochrane.
Was Genung a welcomed addition to the team? Chyka said most definitely.
"For us, it really brought him into our world a little bit ... he never missed a morning (of training)," said Chyka.
"Special shout out to Dave Devana, Town CAO, who trained with us as well, however, didn't run the tower. He did a great job coming out and running with us."
Other Cochrane Fire Services members who climbed on the weekend included Alex Vague, Mike Marianchuk, Cody Esposito, Dale Krawec, Dave Gilhen and Matt Cameron.
Visit calgarystairclimb.com to view all times and learn more.