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Waihī Gold Mines Rescue Team, front, and OceanaGold Macraes emergency response team before the climb. Photo: SUPPLIED

Rescue teams conquer fierce climb

Seven members of the Waihī Gold Mines Rescue Team ascended the southern hemisphere’s tallest building on August 20 for a flaming good cause.
This year’s annual Firefighter Sky Tower Challenge saw around 900 New Zealand firefighters race to the top of the 328m Auckland Sky Tower carrying 25kg of gear, while also raising funds and awareness for Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand (LBC).
Eight children and adults in New Zealand are diagnosed each day with blood cancer like leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma and the organisation says it’s dedicated to supporting patients and their families for months or even years.
It was the sixth year the rescue team took part in the challenge and member Jamie Bird, who competed in his fourth, told The Profile the best part was crossing the finish line.
“Overall it was pretty good, the most challenging part for this year was the heat, around halfway up you started to really feel it,” he said.
“We started in the basement and then we did four flights up until you’re on ground level and then you do a lap outside and then you carry on up to the top of the Sky Tower.
“We got hot beforehand in the basement. There was a delay and that heated us up before we headed out, and running with all our gear on kept us pretty warm.”
Jamie said the rescue team, who were trained and certified in incident responses including fires, averaged between 12 and 15 minutes to conquer the Sky Tower’s 51 flights of stairs, raising more than $35,000 which made them the second highest fundraising team.
“Our other OceanaGold team from the Macraes operation in Otago raised over $29,500 themselves, so between that and $35,000 by the Waihī guys it’s a huge contribution,” he said. Fundraising for this year has officially closed.
Jamie said the rescue team were keen to participate in next year’s challenge and some members were interested in the FireFighter of Steel category, which involved climbing an extra nine flights of stairs carrying a steel cylinder instead of a carbon cylinder.
OceanaGold said steel cylinders add an extra six to nine kilograms on top of the standard 25kg of gear firefighters must carry for the Sky Tower challenge.
The category was introduced in 2015 and was awarded to 100 climbers who believed the standard challenge was ‘a piece of cake’.