Sky’s the limit for firefighters

Methven's fire brigade competitors, from left, Sammy Ridge, Mark Brown, Robbie Ferguson, Brent Anderson and Kerry Smith.
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Methven firies are among the firefighters taking part in the annual Sky Tower Challenge this weekend in Auckland.

On Saturday around 800-1000 firefighters from across the country will embark on climbing 51 floors of stairs in the aim of raising money for the Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand. Each competitor will set off in a staggered individual start from the basement floor, one minute apart from each other.

Methven’s Sammy Ridge has been with the fire service for around three years. She was attracted to the role, first and foremost to help people but her uncle was also a huge inspiration to her as he has been a part of the fire brigade for around 30 years. It was always something she wanted to do; it was just a case of getting to a point in her life where she could fit it in.

Working for Genesis Energy at Methven Motors, she has received huge support, in allowing her the flexibility to fit both jobs in when she is called into action.

The Sky Tower Challenge consists of three different categories for the competitors. The first option is ‘donned’, which challengers wear the full gear but without the mask and breathing apparatus.

The second choice is ‘donned and started’, which is full gear with mask. Then there is the ‘man of steel’ option, which is like the former but uses a much heavier cylinder, reminiscent of the old school firefighter. The man of steel also incorporates a much harder feat, with 61 flights of stairs to achieve.

In fact, Methven’s fire brigade chief, Brent Anderson will be attempting the ‘man of steel’ challenge, where as Sammy will be taking up the ‘donned and started’ option, climbing 51 flights.

They will also be accompanied by three other members from Methven.

This is Sammy’s second year, competing in the event and she recalled her feelings and emotions from last year, as she prepares herself to take up the challenge again this weekend.

The full gear weighs 25kgs and along with the mask and breathing apparatus, the body gets hot very quickly.

“Last year was quite daunting, obviously being my first time, I think my body was already in shock. I started climbing and could feel the pain pretty much straight away, but you just have to keep pushing yourself.

“It eventually hits you mentally and your body starts to suffer from heat exhaustion. When you reach the top, the feeling is incredible. It’s such agood cause and a great thing to be a part of,” she said.

The 44th floor provides an opportunity to reach some flat ground for a welcomed moment. Water is provided for the ‘donned’ challengers to drink but as for the likes of Sammy, water is poured down their back to give them a brief second wind and cool the body down for a bit.

The aim is to raise $1500 per firefighter and guarantees them a spot for next year’s event.

Donations can be paid online but Sammy has taken it a step further in her attempts to receive sponsorship to go towards the charity. There are collection buckets at Methven Motors petrol station and Topp Country cafe. Last year she managed to raise over $3000. People may remember the Methven fire brigade at the bottom of Mt Hutt, with their collection buckets. More recently people would have seen the Methven firefighters in full gear at the Methven Walking Festival in April.

Sammy completed the challenge last year in 21 minutes, 40 seconds. She would love to break this record this time, but it’s not the be all and end all, just finishing is an achievement in itself.