And early next month, in an effort to help make a difference in the lives of their fellow firefighters everywhere, several members of the East Haven Fire Department will put their best foot forward — more than an exhaustive 400 steps up and up and up.
Fight for Air Climb
For the third year in a row, several members of the department will be competing in the Fight for Air Climb: 360 State Street.
The event, which serves as a local fundraiser for the American Lung Association, will take place Saturday, Feb. 8 in the 360 State Street building.
Each member of the East Haven Fire team — which is made up of both career and volunteer firefighters, including Chief Douglas Jackson — will climb 413 stairs as part of the event's overall ALA fundraising effort.
Top Event Finishers
In previous years, members of the EHFD team have placed in the top three of their age groups.
"And last year we won the award for the largest firefighter team," Jonathan DePino, co-captain of this year's EHFD group, told East Haven Patch. "And this year's we're hoping to be just as successful."
The group has set a fundraising goal of $2,500 for the 2014 climb. Each participant is required to raise at least $100 each in order to take part in the event.
Full Gear Ahead
But, for the East Haven team, it's not just about raising donations.
The groups's participation also serves to raise awareness to the unfortunate fact that firefighters are particularly susceptible to pulmonary diseases.
Hoping to draw attention to the issue, the EHFD crews won't just be climbing all those stairs in gym clothes and sneakers — they're going to do it in full firefighter gear.
"We'll be wearing the boots, the jacket, the air pack — everything," DePino said. "Altogether, it weighs an added 80 pounds."
Because of the nature of their day-to-day work, firefighters are exposed to many harmful materials during their career such as: carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, nitrogen dioxide, as well as countless others.
DePino said these dangerous particles in the air can cause immediate injuries to the pulmonary system, but some can lay dormant for years causing retired firefighters to be affected.
"There's COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), lung cancer and many others we're exposed to," he said. "And so, as part of the climb, we're just trying to raise awareness about it all."
'Open to Anybody'
DePino, however, added that the Fight for Air Climb is not just for firefighters but for anyone who wants to take part and help support the important work of the American Lung Association.
"The climb is open to anybody — anybody can do it," he said. "And volunteers are always welcome, even if you don't want to climb."
Make a Donation or Join the Climb!
To register for next month's event or to learn more about Scale 360 State Street, visit Climbofyourlife.org.