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Columbia Falls Fire Department team headed to Seattle Stairclimb

| February 28, 2024 2:00 AM

Three members of the Columbia Falls Fire Department are set to climb the second-tallest building west of the Mississippi in full gear on March 10 to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Volunteers Mitch O’Brien and Kyle Dolph alongside career firefighter Jade Thomas have been training for two months to climb Columbia Center in the Seattle Stairclimb, where firefighters race 1,356 steps up 69 floors to the top for LLS. 

“It’s a friendly competition, but the Montana teams are actually pretty dialed. Missoula typically wins,” said O’Brien, who was the first C-Falls firefighter to compete in the Stairclimb last year, solo. With only 11 days of training, he finished mid-pack and raised $950. This year he recruited Dolph and Thomas, and they are hoping to break $3,000 before the competition, with around $2,800 already raised. 

The trio has been walking the treadmill at the fire station at a 15% incline in their 60 lb packs for training, and hopes to be competitive against the 4,000 other firefighters climbing Columbia Center.

“The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is a leading foundation in blood cancer research, and stairclimb competitions like this one are a major source of fundraising for them,” Thomas explained. “Blood cancer and cancer research is near and dear to us as firefighters, as we are often exposed to cancer-causing carcinogens. Firefighters have a 1.14 times greater risk of a leukemia diagnosis than the general public.”

As a whole, the Stairclimb campaign had raised 40% of its goal as of press time. Helping out the C-Falls team also helps out firefighters across the country and internationally. The City of Columbia Falls provides a vehicle and covers transportation costs for the climbers, though accommodations and meals are on their own dollar. All donations go straight to LLS. To support to the C-Falls team or individual members, visit the Columbia Falls Fire Department Facebook page and Instagram, or visit 

“Anything helps, we’re just trying to spread awareness and get the name out there,” O’Brien said.