Firefighters take the stairs

JESS MCALLEN
Last updated 11:18 17/05/2014
Fairfax NZ

Firefighters climbed the Sky Tower as part of an annual fundraising appeal.

Firefighters climb sky tower
Michael Bradley Zoom
Maaki McKinney leads the team who have walked from Waitangi to compete in the Auckland Sky Tower stair climb.

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Firefighters from across New Zealand and Australia are once again battling the Sky Tower stairs instead of flames.

In its 10th year, the annual Firefighter Sky Tower Challenge has already managed to raise more than double the amount of money it received last year and is expecting more by the end of the day.

CEO of the Leukaemia Blood Cancer foundation, Pru Etcheverry says the organisation has already received $800,000 in donations and is "amazed" by the increase compared to last year's final sum of $444,890.

Etcheverry attributes the increase to the firefighter community going all-out to honour ten years of helping the Leukaemia Blood Cancer foundation.

More than 700 firefighters arrived at 6am today to start the challenge.

The first race, which began at 8am, featured the fittest and most competitive firefighters.

Among them was Josh Harrison from the Otara fire station.

The 31-year-old has attended six challenges in the past and hopes to defend the title he has won for the past three years.

He was first to emerge from the stairs but is unsure whether his time was good enough.

"This year hurt more than any other year, or maybe I just forgot how painful it is," he says.

"But I love doing it, it's a really cool event. It's not about having competition, it's about raising awareness.

Harrison was joined by the New Zealand Firefighters Charitable Trust who walked more than 330km from Waitangi to Auckland.

Organiser, Maaka McKinney, says the trust decided to go the extra mile for the 10 year anniversary and that rural parts of New Zealand were especially helpful.

The team started out at 2am every morning to avoid traffic.

Jimmy Rattray from Birkenhead Fire Station was part of the group.

"Doing the actual walk was harder compared to going up the sky tower because it took such a long time," he says.

Rattray wore a helmet decorated by children with Leukaemia and says it helped boost his motivation.

The final round is at 2pm and organisers are hoping to see more donations flow in.

To donate or find out more information go to http://firefightersclimb.org.nz/

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