If you’ve been wondering if there is a recurrent fire at the top of the Catalina steps you’re not alone.
Fire and Rescue members Alan Fitches, Sabina Hughes, Paul Lyons and Robbie Hewson have been running up and down the stairs in eye-catching firefighting ensembles since early this year – all fired up to raise funds for research into Motor Neurone Disease (MND).
“It’s Sabina’s fault,” Mr Fitches said.
“She walked in one day and said ‘is anyone interested in climbing Sydney tower for MND?’
“There was silence. I thought, bugger it, I’m retiring this year, I’ll do it. Robbie and Paul came on board, and here we are.”
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The ‘Firies Climb for MND’ began in 2015. Firefighters climb the 1504 stairs of Sydney Tower Eye wearing full structural firefighting ensemble and air sets with a combined weight of over 20kg. Over $1,300,000 raised since 2015 through this event, and donated to Macquarie University MND research teams.
There Catalina steps are shorter, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.
“There’s 72 steps at this set of stairs here, so we have to climb it 21 times – and apart from climbing it up 21 times, we have to come down it 21 times,” Mr Fitches said.
“I’ve climbed these stairs 2300 times and around about the equivalent of 50 times up the tower, and the crew joining me when they can.”
Mr Fitches’ personal best for the Catalina stairs is 25 minutes, however, in the beginning it was a challenge.
“We started off wearing shorts and a t-shirt and did four or five times up, and by that time we were crawling down,” he said.
“I’ve got this deal with myself that if I don’t make it 21 times up and down, for every time I don’t make it, I put a dollar in the bucket for MND, and so far I’m up to $49.”
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Instigator Mrs Hughes said there were a few reasons she wanted to enter a team for the climb.
“I work as a PT and I wanted to get the guys at the station that little bit more fit,” she said.
“We’ve met a few people along the way that suffer from MND, and seeing it first hand is absolutely devastating.
“It just slowly degenerates their bodies, from losing the function of their legs to being able to speak, swallow and breathe for themselves, and it affects so many Australians every year.
“We have so many fit people in the fire brigade, we might as well make the most of it.”
Mr Fitches said training had connected the group to the wider community.
“I usually do it at the time the kids are going to school, and the school kids used to be coming down the stairs as we were going up,” he said.
“I’d say ‘g’day’, and they were very shy, but they got to the stage where they would say ‘g’day’.
“It gets interest from people – the support has been great.”
Anyone who would like to donate can go to firiesclimbformnd.org.au and search for team ‘Batemans Bay 217’.