Atlanta firefighters step up to combat lung disease in charitable climb

Hundreds gathered in Atlanta, including many local firefighters, to participate in a rigorous charity event aimed at combating lung disease. The "Fight for Air" climb, now in its 18th year, drew participants from various metro-Atlanta fire departments who donned their gear and ascended the Promenade Tower—one of the state's tallest buildings. 

The challenge involved climbing nearly 40 floors, totaling approximately 800 steps. More than 350 people participated in the event, which benefitted the American Lung Association. Gwinnett County Fire Chief Fred Cephas expressed enthusiasm about the occasion. "To come together for a good cause. There's nothing tragic going on. We just have an opportunity to compete and come together. That's awesome," he said. 

Firefighter Brian Martin, a veteran of over a decade in these climbs, highlighted the personal stakes involved. "This isn't just something that we're doing for other people, but also ourselves, because as a firefighter, we are at risk for more lung diseases than other people because of what we breathe in during a structural firefight," Martin explained. 

Participants also noted the intensity of the climb. Rachel Webster, chairperson of the American Lung Association's Fight for Air Climb, remarked on the preparation and effort put into the event. "People have been training. So, there is like there's people who went up there in like three or four minutes," she said, also adding, "Your muscles really feel it. And then, of course, your lungs, like there was a lot of heavy breathing in the stairwell." 

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Firefighters climbed stairs in Atlanta to help fight lung disease on April 20, 2024.  (FOX 5)

The climb was more than just a physical challenge; it was a communal effort that fostered camaraderie among the firefighters. Douglas Kerns, a firefighter from Dalton, shared his perspective. "We come together, and we see each other and I forget we got to climb because I've got friendship and brotherhood that's here. We don't do this enough and we all share the same thing of hurt coming upstairs," Kerns said. 

The event successfully raised over $130,000, and for many, the motto of the day was "Keep on climbing." The firefighters who participated look forward to future climbs, continuing to build their bonds while supporting a vital cause.