Story City firefighter speaks at Fight for Air Climb event

Staff Writer
Story City Herald
Story City firefighter speaks at Fight for Air Climb event

—by Todd Thorson

The American Lung Association of Iowa presented a special press conference on Tuesday, September 30, at the Ruan Center in Des Moines. Each March the Lung Association of Iowa holds a unique fundraising event called the Fight for Air Climb. This year they are adding a fourth building to the lineup of high rises - the Ruan Center. A special component of the Fight for Air Climb is the Fire Fighter Challenge. Fire fighters from across the state climb the various buildings’ stairwells in a relay format, wearing full gear that weighs up to 70 lbs. Story City’s fire department has been represented the last four years. One of those local fire fighters is Trent Whipple, who was asked to speak at the press conference on September 30.

Trent has participated in the Fight for Air Climb for 10 years (six with the Pioneer Company and the last four years in the firefighter competition). He participates in the climb in full gear, and does so to draw awareness to the fact that firefighters can disproportionately be affected by lung disease while in the line of duty, including lung cancer. Due to the extensive work, firefighters can experience exposure to gases, chemicals and smoke while fighting fires, which can cause damaging lung health effects.

Trent, an IT Manager at Dupont Pioneer, has been a three-year training officer for the Story City Fire Department, and attends monthly meetings where special training is conducted on drills, gear and various fire exercises.

“Over the years I have climbed for many reasons,” said Whipple as he addressed those in attendance at the recent media event. “I started as a team building exercise for the DuPont Pioneer Fitness Center. And now this is a new challenge to train for, not just another 5K run. After the first couple of years, it became a personal goal to beat my own time.”

After forming the fire fighter team, Whipple recalls their first year: “We didn’t really know what we were doing. Three of us worked out, but not together (referring to his teammates Ryan Peterson and Brian Watson). We thought this would be a great way to keep us in the gym competively.”

Trent’s fire fighter team trains for about five months, leading up to the day of the climb in March. By training every week it allows the team to wear full gear more often, which gets the team acclimated better to the bulky gear and pack.

“We train/climb the stairs in all 70 lbs. of our fighter gear so we can stay in shape,” Whipple told the audience, “and when an emergency presents itself, we are prepared.”

By training within his own fire department, Trent says it builds team comradery, which brings the department closer together.

“You can’t be a successful fire fighter without having at least a little competitive attitude,” he continued. “Every week we encourage each other and get to work together for a fun activity for a great cause that is also a great team building activity.”

And with Trent’s team having won the volunteer division of the Fight for Air Climb the last three years, “it doesn’t hurt to see that big trophy sitting in the trophy case at the station either”.

Trent concluded his representative portion of the press conference by stating how important it is to stress the fact that fire fighters can indeed be affected in one form or another by lung disease: “What most don’t realize about fire is the smoke that is emitted is unburnt pollutants. The pollutants in the line of duty can cause damange to lungs and have long term health effects. We hear it all the time in fire service that you don’t know how precious air is until you all of a sudden don’t have it. Some of the situations we find ourselves in toe that fine line of air or no air. We do this climb for those that don’t have a choice to toe that line.”

Whipple then thanked the American Lung Association for putting on the well-coordinated climb every year, and for all the hard work they do to educate on improving lung health and preventing lung disease.

Included in the special press event was the announcement that the 2015 Fight for Air Climb will be held on Sunday, March 22, and will add a fourth building to the line up of downtown Des Moines buildings. The Ruan Center will join the previous three buildings - EMC Insurance Companies, Hub Tower and the Des Moines Mariott Hotel - to form a 93 floor lineup for individuals and teams to test their skill and stamina.

With the addition of a fourth building, the Story City Fire Department team of Whipple, Peterson and Watson needed to find a fourth member, and they believe they’ve found him. It has been reported that Tyler Oberender, another member of the Story City Fire Department, will join Whipple and company for the next climb in March 2015.

Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned climber, this Lung Association of Iowa event is a great way to challenge one’s self physically, while raising money to help people affected by the various forms of lung disease. There are several climb options, however, for one, two, three or four building climbs. And the team categories include: corporate team challenge, fire fighter relay challenge, law enforcement challenge, gym and fitness challenge and a family and friends category. For more information go to www.lung.org/pledge-events/ia/des-moins-climb-fy15 or contact the special events staff at EventsIA@Lung.org or call 515/309-9507.