A local retired firefighter will climb to the top of the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre this month as a tribute to late Black Press Media reporter Keri Lynn Coles and to help support the one in five British Columbians affected by a lung or breathing condition.
Former Esquimalt assistant fire chief Steve Serbic will join more than 250 B.C. firefighters for the BC Lung Association’s Climb the Wall stair climb fundraiser for vital lung patient support programs, research and advocacy initiatives.
They will climb the stairs all the way up 48 storeys to the top of the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre for the fundraiser, which has taken place annually for the past 19 years.
Keri Coles, an award-winning reporter with Black Press Media, died in November due to advanced metastatic lung cancer. She never smoked.
“Keri was a friend to the entire B.C. fire service when it came to writing articles about the many calls we respond to in the Greater Victoria region and mental health,” Serbic said. “It will be an honour to Climb the Wall in her memory. She is greatly missed and all her work in support of B.C. firefighters will never be forgotten.”
Frank Williams of the Victoria Fire Department is also taking part in the climb for a second time. He lost his father to lung cancer. Williams said the fundraiser brings the firefighting community together for a cause that is “close to home.”
Mike Beckner and Jordan Elvedahl from the Victoria Fire Department will join Williams.
CFB Esquimalt firefighter and Climb 2020 team captain Keith Kershaw said firefighters are routinely at risk of exposure to harmful air pollutants.
“While we take precautions and wear special gear to protect ourselves, each fire exposes us to a mix of toxins that can contribute to firefighters’ increased risk of respiratory disease and cancer,” Kershaw said.
Firefighters participating in Climb the Wall will compete for fastest climb time wearing full protective gear and breathing apparatus, adding an extra 50 pounds that need to be hauled up the stairs.
Williams said the event demonstrates just how physically challenging the work of firefighters can be.
Family, friends and lung health care professionals will also join firefighters in the climb in honour of loved ones affected by respiratory illness.
BC Lung Association chief executive Christopher Lam said the province’s firefighting community is a partner and significant contributor to the association’s annual Climb the Wall event.
Firefighters, lung health care community members and participating members of the public have raised almost $2 million since the event first began.
Those interested in making a donation in support of participating firefighters can visit stairclimb.ca, click donate and search for the individual by name.
To participate, non-firefighters pay a $25 registration fee and commit to fundraising a minimum of $125. In return, each climber gets a Climb the Wall T-shirt, brunch and front row seats to all of the fun.