New Zealand’s iconic Sky Tower saw more than 700 firefighters from around the country battle their way to the top to raise money for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand. The annual Firefighting Sky Tower Stair Challenge is celebrating its tenth anniversary today and had the Central Business district (CBD) region abuzz with excitement.
Located right in the heart of the CBD, the Sky Tower is perhaps the most well-known piece of Kiwi architecture. Standing at 328 metres, this tower is the largest free-standing piece of architecture in the Southern Hemisphere and is a proud Kiwi monument. Primarily used as an observation and communications tower, it is unique to Auckland’s skyline. The central circular part is a restaurant that serves high-end cuisine and is known to spin at a slow pace. Bungee jumping from the tower is a special attraction, and the tower is strong enough to bear strong winds and lightning. With efficient lighting and its unique height, Auckland lights the tower up with various colors to publicize major events.
Braving the cold winter morning, and bearing almost 25 kg of heavy equipment, the annual Firefighting Sky Tower Stair Challenge 2014 saw 700 firefighters from all over New Zealand race to the top. First started in 2005 with 88 firefighters who raised just over $17,000 NZ, this annual event attracts competitors from other parts of the world, who race up a flight of 1,103 stairs. Over a 180 brigades from across New Zealand took part. This year saw the event go international, with 13 firefighters from Australia, Hawaii and the U.S. travelling to Auckland to participate. The proudest moment in the race was when Josh Harrison and Gabbie Ernst won the event. Clocking the flight of stairs for the men in under 8.36 minutes, Harrison was ecstatic as he reached the last stair. Ernst, on the other hand clocked in 14.29 minutes to bag it for the women.
The funds were expected to touch $1 million NZ and will help run the Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand, that supports Kiwis diagnosed with blood cancer or related conditions. It is estimated that around six Kiwis are affected with some form of blood cancer every day. Pru Etcheverry, CEO LBCNZ, was touched by the work put in by the participants across New Zealand who gave up their time to raise funds. She also mentioned that the level of support the firefighters from New Zealand displayed to race to the top of the Sky Tower for the patients was phenomenal.
John Mortensen, SKYCITY Auckland’s General Manager, was impressed too, with the effort that went into training and racing the stairs of the tower for charity and expected a higher turnout next year. An exciting feature for over ten years, this event continues to grow leaps and bounds. These brave firefighters will surely return next year to race to the top of the Sky Tower to raise money once again.
By Rathan Paul Harshavardan.