For five years, Cochrane firefighters Derek Orr and Chris Chyka have trained, geared up, and successfully competed in the Firefighter Stair Climb Challenge in support of Calgary Wellspring. 

Over 600 competitors took the challenge by competing in the 2019 Firefighter Stair Climb Change, says Chyka, and although the weather wasn't exactly stellar, it worked in their favour. "This year's climb was a grind like most other years. The weather wasn't great this year either, but ultimately it helped in the tower by not having the sun beat in on the stairwell."

Training for the group commenced in December, and it's been a long haul and not easy, shares Chyka. While nine firefighters took on the challenge, the team was also joined by Mayor Jeff Genung and Town of Cochrane, CAO Dave Devana. "This year with the Mayor and CAO running it certainly renewed our commitment to the cause. The last couple of weeks before running is the hardest; everyone is tired, sore, and, yet, we know we must continue to climb. No matter how good your level of fitness is, the tower is the great equalizer. There is no cheating in there; everyone sweats."

This year's times to climb 775 vertical feet or 1204 steps of The BOW Building in full duty gear, were once again extremely impressive. "Our times were much better this year considering all the runners we had. Our fastest was Eric Paxman followed by Derek Orr with times ranging from 12:47 to just over 22 minutes. Overall we are very proud of our times by all the climbers. Many of the runners were first-timers, and they were surprised at how tough it really was."

While every year seems to present its own set of challenges, says Chyka, this year he was proud not only of their times but the ten competitors' overall fundraising total. "Between the two teams, we raised just over 5,000 dollars. Mayor Genung raised 16,000 dollars on his own for a total amount of over $21,000. We cannot thank those who donated enough. We are proud of our time but we have even more pride in our total number. We also want to thank 4iiii and Garmin Canada for sponsorship, the heart rate monitors and watches were extremely helpful to our overall training and fitness."

Orr and Chyka are the only two firefighters who have competed in the challenge annually since they began five years ago, and this year, the climb's significance hit close to home. "This year was probably more important and meaningful for us as someone close to both of us was diagnosed and treated for cancer. It gave us that extra motivation this year. Our group of 9 (10 with the Mayor) did something many people cannot; we ran for people who are unable to do so due to cancer. The climb is gruelling, but not as gruelling as the battle faced by those who have cancer."

Although Chyka couldn't put an exact number on how many of his co-workers have accessed services provided by Wellspring, he does know they are being accessed and utilized. "I don't have exact numbers but we do know some members have, as well as, some of their families."

Wellspring Calgary is a community that provides a comprehensive range of support, resources, and programs to those living with cancer and their caregivers. Programs and resources are offered free of charge and without a referral, so no one has to face cancer alone. Proceeds from the Firefighter Stair Climb Challenge go to support firefighters and citizens impacted by cancer.

Below is the list of times of all ten competitors, and you can expect to see both Orr and Chyka take the challenge on once again, in 2020. If you haven't donated, yet, but would like to, you can do so HERE (under Team- Cochrane Fire Team#1 or Cochrane Fire Team 2).

  • Eric Paxman 12:47
  • Derek Orr 12:54
  • Alex Vague 13:27
  • Chris Chyka 19:15
  • Dale Krawec 22:06
  • Andrew Weaver 13:04
  • David Gilhen 14:43
  • Mayor Jeff Genung 14:48
  • Mike Marianchuk 13:44
  • Cody Esposito 19:24
  • Matthew Cameron 18:23


Mayor Genung Beats the Chief, Raises $16,000