Scarborough firefighters will climb to defeat lung disease

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SCARBOROUGH — Volunteer firefighter Mike Stephenson, 61, next week will endure what he called “20 minutes of pain” to raise awareness about lung disease

Stephenson and other town firefighters on Feb. 3 will participate in the annual American Lung Association Fight for Air Climb, racing up 789 steps in one of Boston’s tallest buildings at One Boston Place.

Stephenson, who has been with the Fire Department for six years, will be joined by 10 teammates. About 2,000 people will take part, with the goal of raising $500,000. Half of the participants will be firefighters.

The Scarborough team has raised $7,400 as of Jan. 25, far exceeding its goal of $2,500; Stephenson alone has raised $3,400. The money raised will help the American Lung Association provide patient education and support research for people living with lung disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, lung cancer and asthma.

“We are doing really well as a team, and having a friendly rivalry with other participating departments, especially Lewiston,” Stephenson said. “We will be climbing the 41 floors, 82 flights, 789 stairs in full firefighter turnout gear, which weighs in excess of 50 pounds.”

Last year, more than 30,000 participants at 52 Fight for Air Climb sites raised more than $8.3 million nationwide, he said. 

Information on how to donate can be found online on the American Lung Association website. 

“At 61 years old I am the oldest of the 11 members of Scarborough Fire Department, which compares to the youngest, Nick Hegarty who is 17 years old,” Stephenson said.

Other team members are Thomas Selby, Angie Contreras, Nathaniel Contreras, Mike Gallant, Deane Gower, Adam Madura, Shannon Mazyck, Austin Mckearney and Ryan Ouellette.

This is Stephenson’s third year climbing, which he does in memory of his mother, who died several years ago after struggling with lung-related issues for many years.

“We are all motivated to the cause because lung disease, and especially cancer, is significantly more likely in firefighters than the general public because of the toxicity of the smoke and other products of combustion,” he said. 

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106., or at jlaaka@theforecaster.net.

Scarborough firefighters at last year’s American Lung Association Fight for Air Climb in Boston. Twelve members of the department will participate in the climb Saturday, Feb. 3. 

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