Butte firefighters climb for a cause

If you ever find yourself in need of rescue at the top of one of the tall buildings in Uptown Butte, have no fear — especially if firefighters Matt Doble, Mark McCarthy, Chad Silk, Derek Harvey or Brant Bristol are on duty.

Those Butte firefighters are ready — and then some — after training in high gear to climb stairs in full gear and at a rapid pace. They haven’t been decked out in the firefighting equipment and walking on StairMasters as part of the job, though. They are doing it for sport and to raise money for a good cause.

Doble, McCarthy, Silk, Harvey and Bristol will compete in the 5th Annual Portland Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge on Sunday, Sept. 22 in Oregon.

They’ll be racing up 42 floors in the U.S. Bank Tower in Portland to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Oregon Chapter. The gear they wear weighs about 45 or 50 pounds. They have to wear their masks with air supplied by a tank, as if the building they were climbing was actually on fire.

“It isn’t bad for the first 20 floors,” Silk said Friday morning before walking up 40 floors on a StairMaster in full gear at a CCCS workout room at the former McKinley School. “But when you get to the top …”

McCarthy, 46, is the veteran of the bunch. He has been competing in events like this for a few years.

This will be McCarthy’s fourth time competing in Portland. He competed three times in a Seattle climb of 69 floors. The Seattle climb raises money to help fight leukemia, a cause that is near to the hearts of the Butte firefighters. Retired battalion chief John Paul is currently fighting that disease.

“I was on the internet a few years ago and came across it,” McCarthy said. “I got into it. It’s kind of like running. It helps that its specific to the job.”

Silk, 26, who also competed in Seattle, will be competing in Portland for the second time, while Doble, 25, Harvey, 24, and Bristol, 26, are rookies.

The five will stay in Portland with former Butte firefighter Jason Martin, who works for the Portland Fire Department now. Martin is also competing.

Silk, the nephew of Butte Olympic speed skater Dave Silk, competed in the Missoula Firefighter Combat Challenge last weekend.

“They call it the toughest 2 minutes in sports for a good reason,” Silk said after completing his climb on the StairMaster Friday. “My goal was for 2:20. I was 2:19 … point 2 … 3, but when I finished I didn’t care what time I got.”

The stairclimb takes considerably longer. McCarthy was close to 9 minutes with his finish last year. This year, he hopes to keep close to that pace.

“I’m hoping I don’t slow down,” he said.

Silk is shooting for 8 minutes, while Doble, a former Montana Tech football player who joined the department in December,  is just aiming to finish.

“I’d like win, but some of those times people put up are amazing,” said Doble, an assistant coach with the Butte High football team. “It’s not about winning, it’s about the charity.”

Each firefighter has a minimum amount of money to raise to compete. McCarthy has a web site set up for donations to his race. (Click here to donate)

The others will accept donations at the Butte Fire Department.

A “survivors party” will follow the climb, and the firefighters will return to the Mining City with a sense of accomplishment.

They also say they will be better fire fighters because of it, too.

“You’re a lot more comfortable in your gear,” Silk said about returning to work after the grueling competition. “That’s for sure.”

Matt Doble practices Friday.

Doble catches his breath after the workout.

Chad Silk, left, and Mark McCarthy discus Friday’s workout.


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