Seattle stair climb postponed due to coronavirus
For years, Medford Fire-Rescue has participated in a stair-climbing event in Seattle intended to raise money for cancer research.
But this year’s Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Firefighter Stairclimb, scheduled for Sunday, March 8, has been postponed due to concerns stemming from COVID-19.
“No news on when it’s going to be rescheduled or if it’s going to be rescheduled,” said Medford Fire-Rescue Captain Jon Peterson, who has participated in the event for 14 years. “The last conversation I had with somebody from them was (Thursday), and they’re trying to find out if they can reschedule it.”
On Friday, the Washington State Department of Health confirmed 58 cases of COVID-19 in King County, where Seattle is located, according to the agency’s website. Nineteen cases were reported in Snohomish County, with one in Grant County and one in Jefferson County. Eleven people have died, 10 in King County.
“It’s been pretty significant, what’s going on up there,” Peterson said. “So they postponed it until further notice.”
The LLS Firefighter Stairclimb website bills the event as the “world’s largest on-air stair climb competition,” where participants climb the Columbia Tower’s 69 flights of stairs, a vertical gain of 788 feet.
“This physically challenging competition is representative of the struggle that blood cancer patients endure,” the website reads. “Every step to the top serves as a reminder that there is still much work to be done in funding and finding cures.”
The event has been held annually since 1991 and raised more than $20 million, the site says.
Numerous Rogue Valley departments have participated in past years, though Medford and Grants Pass have had a consistent presence at the event, Peterson said. This would have been Peterson’s 15th year, the department’s 17th. Six people in the department had planned to make the trip this year.
“Some of our firefighters have had parents or kids or relatives who have had leukemia (or) lymphoma,” Peterson said. “Some of them are survivors, some of them passed away, so it’s kind of like a memorial stair climb for some of our guys, our way to support leukemia, lymphoma and cancer patients.”
Peterson said the postponement is disappointing, but he understands it from a public health standpoint. He pointed to a recent quarantine of firefighters in Kirkland, Washington, as an example of how emergency services can be impacted. A Tuesday Associated Press story said 10 people in that department developed symptoms after responding to calls at a nursing facility.
“I think that’s the main reason why they did this,” Peterson said. “You bring this back, it comes back, and it starts to spread into the fire service or law enforcement, first responders and hospitals. And you start quarantining people, your normal services ... may not have the staffing and capability to do that.”