Local volunteer firefighter Russ Deboodt recently completed the Scott Firefighter Stair Climb, which raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

by: SETH TOOLEY, CCFR - Local firefighter Russ Deboodt (LEFT) and crew mate Chris Anderson size up the Columbia Tower in Seattle. Deboodt climbed 69 flights of stairs inside the skyscraper as part of a fundraiser.

This past Sunday, local volunteer firefighter Russ Deboodt stood on the fourth floor of the Columbia Tower in Seattle, dressed in full gear.

The building was not burning, but regardless he would soon scale 69 flights of stairs.

The Scott Firefighter Stair Climb, held each year, provides firefighters from around the country the opportunity to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. This past weekend, it drew more than 1,800 participants and raised at least $1.5 million.

The event has earned the respect of fellow firefighters at Crook County Fire and Rescue. Those who had dared attempt the feat before warned Deboodt how physically taxing it can be.

His donors, upon hearing a description of the fundraiser, agreed that Deboodt was in for a tough day.

“Most of them thought I was pretty well out of my mind,” he said.

Leading up to the climb, Deboodt and other firefighters were separated into 30-person battalions. When his group was finally called, they lined up single file at the starting line. Every 15 seconds, a new battalion member began their ascent. Before long, his name was called.

To prepare for the Stair Climb, Deboodt tried to find the next best thing to a high-rise tower.

“Unfortunately in Prineville, we don’t have anything that would even come close to helping you train. I think our tallest building is only three stories tall,” he said. “So, I did a lot of running up the grade. Then, we have a stairclimber at the fire department. I just put on all my gear and would climb on that until I couldn’t climb anymore. He later learned that another month of training couldn’t have hurt.

As Deboodt began his ascent of the Columbia Tower, he was feeling pretty good about himself.

“All right, I’m actually doing this,” he thought. His mindset soon changed.

“By the 30th floor, I was looking for an exit door for sure,” he said. “Complete exhaustion.”

Ten agonizing floors later, he earned his first and only reprieve. There, on the 40th floor, firefighters were allowed to change out their air bottles before completing the final 29 flights of the trek.

Between floors 40 and 69, a thoroughly exhausted Deboodt pushed forward, having no clear knowledge of when his journey would finally end.

“It was all I could do to use my arms and pull myself up the stairs using the handrails,” he said. “I started to get pretty good tunnel vision where you kind of lose track of where you are and you are just looking at the next step.”

Finally, Deboodt made it to the top floor. For his efforts, he had raised $1,600 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

“A pretty good group of family and friends, and friends of family, were able to support me,” he said.

In addition, the event gave him the opportunity to network with hundreds of his peers.

“The best part was getting to go out afterward and talk with all of the firefighters from all over the country, and learn about what they do at their departments, and how that differs from what we do,” Deboodt said, “ It’s a giant brotherhood.”

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