“356, 357,” is what a breathless Nathan Lapinski counted a few days after he and fellow firefighter, Jake Sporna, climbed a combined total of 714 stairs. It was part of a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). Where the two had pledged to climb a story for every dollar donated with a total of $1,000 raised, which included additional donations.
Lapinski, who graduated from Superior High School two years ago, set up the challenge with a stairmaster in the lobby of Rosauers grocery store in Missoula on Feb. 24. They had a four-hour window at the store and didn’t get all the stairs completed and had to finish the task over the next couple of days.
Lapinski lives at the Missoula Rural Fire District Station in Missoula. He moved there after graduation and is a resident firefighter and EMT. He is in his last semester of fire rescue school offered through Helena College. With an associate degree, Lapinski is on his way to becoming a full-time firefighter. It’s a career path he chose after becoming a volunteer firefighter with the Superior department at age 16.
WHILE CLIMBING the stairs at Rosauers, Lapinski and Sporna wore 60 pounds of firefighting gear. The purpose was to raise money for the charity but also to get in shape for the 28th Annual LLS Firefighter Stairclimb held in Seattle, Wash. The event is held March 10 and attracts firefighters from all over the world.
Lapinski’s seven-man team from his firehouse has been entering the contest every year — with some previous winners. “It’s a popular event and they only take 2,000 entries. The event was sold out within 10 minutes,” he said.
The competition is to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society with a goal of $2,750,000. It is the same organization Lapinski and Sporna raised their funds for in Missoula. During the event firefighters climb 69 flights of stairs in the Columbia Center, or 1,356 steps. All in full gear while on air. Since the competition’s inception it has raised over $17 million for LLS.
“We pay all travel expenses out of our own pocket with 100 percent of the donations going to LLS,” Lapinski said. This is his first time competing. “I’m excited to go and just see it,” he said.
Donation information can be found on Facebook at the Flights for the Fight–Scott Firefighter, Stairclimb Fundraiser.