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Firefighter finishes stairclimb fundraiser in fine fashion

Spokane Valley firefighter Paul Kimball found his performance in this year’s Scott Firefighter Stairclimb “a little disappointing.” He placed only fourth among more than 1,400 men who registered.

Last year, Kimball finished second.

This year’s performance, 11 seconds slower than last year’s, was Kimball’s second fourth-place finish in a fundraising scramble to the top of the 69-story Columbia Center in Seattle.

He and other Spokane- and Coeur d’Alene-area firefighters joined counterparts from 244 departments in four countries to raise money for the Washington/Alaska Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society by dashing up 69 flights of stairs in full turnout gear.

That’s 1,311 steps and a vertical distance of 788 feet with about 50 pounds of equipment, including boots, fire-resistant pants and coat, gloves, helmet and breathing equipment.

“It is very miserable,” Kimball said. “I don’t know why I keep doing it. It’s kind of like putting all your snow gear on and going outside and running on an 80-degree day.”

On top of that, participants must use bottled air throughout the climb.

“It’s definitely harder breathing with the air mask,” Kimball said.

Inhaling requires some effort and exhaling requires even more because of a one-way valve that must be forced open with each breath, he said.

Several other local firefighters also competed well, including Kimball’s teammate Capt. Mark Knokey, who finished 33rd overall in the men’s category and ninth in his age group. Knokey, 37, has competed in the event for 13 years while Kimball, 25, has completed five climbs.

Eric Ross, Jason Keen and Jesse Ayotte of the Spokane Fire Department placed 15th, 18th and 64th overall among men, respectively. Mandy Jacques of the Coeur d’Alene Fire Department and Nicole Bohnet of Spokane County Fire District 10 finished 17th and 45th among 128 female entrants.

Kory Burgess of the Missoula Rural Fire District won the event with a record time of slightly less than 10 minutes and 56 seconds. The old record – approximately 11 minutes and 8 seconds – was set by Seattle firefighter Zach Schade, who finished second this year.

In team results, based on the top three finishers from each department, the Spokane Fire Department placed eighth and the Spokane Valley Fire Department was 10th. The Coeur d’Alene Fire Department finished 49th, followed by Spokane County Fire District 9 in 66th place, the Fairchild Air Force Base Fire Department at 95th and Spokane County Fire District 10 at 113th.

Much like Bloomsday, the stair-climbing event draws a wide range of participants. Some enjoy the athletic challenge while others just want to have fun and raise money for a good cause, Kimball said.

Each participant is required to raise at least $50, and spokesman Mike McQuaid said officials believe this year’s event is “on target” to match last year’s collection of more than $530,000. A civilian version of the stairclimb raised more than $1 million last year.

Kimball will head back to Seattle this weekend to participate in the civilian event Sunday with his fiancée, Sara Schmidt. He talked her into it last week.

“She’s competitive,” Kimball said. “She’ll do well.”

The civilian competitors get to wear athletic clothing instead of fire gear.


Here are this year’s times and places for Spokane-area firefighters, with asterisks denoting women’s division:

Spokane Valley Fire Department: Paul Kimball, 11:50.20, 4; Mark Knokey, 14:12.25, 33; Dustin Waterbly, 16:52.20, 184; Travis Stack, 17:20.45, 225; Anthony Perry, 21:55.50, 736.

Spokane Fire Department: Eric Ross, 13:40.55, 15; Jason Keen, 13:48.30, 18; Jesse Ayotte, 15:08.70, 64; Jeffrey Webb, 17:03.30, 201; Jody Shoemaker, 19:41.45, 496 ; Mike Kulsrud, 20:06.05, 550; John Cappellano, 21:36.65, 704; Mike Rossi, 22:11.80, 759; Brian Schaeffer, 22:23.40, 770; William Logan, 22:48.65, 815; Jeff Baxter, 24:22.85, 904; Paul Binkoski, 25:30.30, 956; Dale Michael, 25:41.55, 966; Mark Tellez, 25:54.30, 973; Chris Long, 29:31.40, 1112; Kelly Smith, 30:31.75, 76*.

Spokane County Fire District 3: Tyler Austin, 26:38.45, 1,008; Matt Kronvall, 32:28.10, 1,169.

Spokane County Fire District 10: Michael Wolf, 17:58.20, 291; Samuel McKoon, 24:43.30, 927; Nicole Bohnet, 24:47.70, 45*; Shawn Bro, 24:51.15, 934; Kenneth Harding, 25:02.00, 943; Angus Noder, 26:10.85, 984; David Fundine, 33:46.05, 1,193.

Spokane County Fire District 9: David Streibick, 17:49.00, 277; Matthew Turner, 18:14.85, 323; Andy Babcock, 19:57.00, 524; Christian LiVecchi, 20:20.45, 575; Jason Quimby, 21:21.85, 678; Jeremy Bunney, 21:35.50, 701; Dan Cecil, 30:17.00, 1,132.

Fairchild Air Force Base Fire Department: Bob Woodworth, 17:57.95, 289; Andrew Morales, 21:26.70, 690; Shawn Welch, 22:30.55, 788; Cody Frank, 27:03.55, 1,027; Jason Satcher, 31:18.90, 1,152.

Coeur d’Alene Fire Department: Dylan Clark, 17:22.75, 230; Keith Benz, 17:23.15, 232; Nate Hyder, 18:23.95, 338; Matt Tosi, 18:32.65, 350; Greg Rod, 18:41.80, 372; Luke Pichette, 19:10.85, 435; Josh Sutherland, 19:46.45, 506; Mandy Jacques, 20:19.25, 17*; Adam Heaton, 27:44.55, 1,062.

Stevens County Fire District 1: Mason McCann, 18:28.25, 342.