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A Loaded Climb

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, September 30, 2010, at 09:38AM
YMCA Stairclimb to the Top Eric Richardson [Flickr]

A firefighter from LAFD's Fire Station 95 finishes his climb at the top of U.S. Bank Tower.



David Verdecia’s time of 24:53 wasn’t anywhere near the fastest among those who climbed the 73-story U.S. Bank Tower on Friday for the YMCA’s Stairclimb to the Top. Elite competition winner Tim Van Orden’s 9:43 would have left Verdecia in his dust.

But Van Orden wasn’t making the climb wearing an extra 50 pounds of firefighting gear.

“This is something that as a firefighter, we may have to do,” Verdecia explained at the tower’s base. “If the 73rd floor of this building is on fire, we’re going to have to climb up there in our gear.”

Along with the weight of a three-layer turnout, helmet and oxygen bottle, those making the climb in fire gear also had to deal with the added factor of the suit’s heat retention and their body’s inability to breathe properly.

“The question really is how much work can we do once we get up there,” Verdecia pointed out, noting that in such a situation firefighters would often require time to recover before being able to do any firefighting.

Increasing the climb’s realism was important to Eric Ingstad of L.A. City Fire Station #57, who made his fourth climb up the tower in full gear.

For Friday’s climb he added a hose pack and an axe to his normal gear, tacking on an additional 20 pounds. He also talked the other climbers from his station into doing the same.

“A fireman isn’t any good without a hose up at the top,” he noted. “If it really was a fire we want to have our equipment: we’ve got forceable entry in case we need to get in if it’s locked, we’ve got our masks and masks and face piece in case we need to go on oxygen and we’ve got a hose so that we could put the fire out.”

All participants in the climb helped to raise money for Downtown’s Ketchum YMCA. The stairclimb is the facility’s biggest fundraiser, with this year’s event expected to raise over $300,000.

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