Two Upper Arlington Fire Division teams recently led the pack in a race to the top of the Rhodes State Office Tower while also raising funds to fight cystic fibrosis.
Firefighters Rex Holman, Justin Farley, Mike Lenix and Dave Wheeler were tops among 13, four-person firefighter relay teams that competed Feb. 23 in the 2013 Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's Battle of the Badges-Climb for a Cure.
Each fireman scaled 10 stories of the Rhodes State Office Tower while wearing 60 pounds of gear and self-contained breathing apparatus. Collectively, the UA team reached the building's 40th floor in just under four minutes -- 3:53.4, to be exact.
The feat topped the team's 2012 first-place finish by 22 seconds in the annual competition, which pits firefighters from around the state against each other.
It also marked the third straight year that Holman, Farley, Lenix and Wheeler have won the competition.
"Each of the people in the four-person relay were doing their 10 floors in less than a minute," said Dan Kochensparger, UAFD public information officer.
Additionally, UA firefighters Scott Bryant, Matt Jividen, Travis Johnston and Mark Weade took second place as a team in the four-person competition with a time of 4:26.2.
Lts. Drew Durbin and Jim Mild also were the second-fastest team in the two-person relay, which required each team member to climb 20 stories. Their time was 8:07.7, which was 24 seconds faster than last year's UAFD two-person team.
And while the teams represented the local fire division in victory, they also contributed $400 to help fight cystic fibrosis through a sponsorship by Upper Arlington Local 1521 of the International Association of Firefighters.
According to Kochensparger, UAFD participants in the Climb for a Cure have raised approximately $4,500 in individual pledges and in entry fees paid by Upper Arlington Firefighters Local 1521 since 2007.
"Other than the obvious philanthropic nature, I think this is a good indication of the emphasis our division places on overall fitness," Kochensparger said. "Firefighters need to be ready to go in an instant."
Fitness is something firefighters pride themselves on, he said, but it's also something they maintain and improve.
He said firefighters do 90 minutes of physical fitness training each day at the outset of their shifts -- except when duty calls.
Additionally, they work with Mount Carmel athletic trainers three days a week, every other week.
"That's something where there's somebody there to push you a little harder," he said.
The occupational health contract for the UAFD is normally for two years, and Kochensparger said the annual cost can vary.
In 2012, the city paid around $50,000 for all services, which included athletic training at the city's fire stations and annual medical exams and physical fitness evaluations.
"We continued this program into this decade with the athletic trainers that come to our stations," Kochensparger said. "Through that, and by having (fitness training) as an everyday event, it becomes pretty much the mindset that you're going to do it.
"It shows the commitment we have to that, and the importance of being prepared physically to do the job."