The Johnston-Grimes Fire Department will be taking part in the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb — an event in which firefighters will climb 85 floors in four buildings in downtown Des Moines, all while fully decked out in firefighting gear.
Fire lieutenant Tristan Johnson told the Johnston Times they also will be climbing in honor of Sgt. Mike Martin, a Johnston Police Department officer who died after a battle with lung cancer in 2015.
“Sgt. Mike Martin worked for the Johnston Police Department for 22 years. He contracted lung cancer prior to retiring in 2011 and then passed away from lung cancer in 2015,” Johnson told the Johnston Times. “Sgt. Martin is remembered by both the fire department and the police department. This year both departments will have teams climbing in the Fight For Air Climb."
Johnson said firefighters and police officer share a brotherhood as emergency responders.
“Together, police officers and firefighters see and experience things that people should not have to witness. These experiences bring us together and form a bond much like a family,” Johnson said. “We want Sgt. Martin’s family to know that he is remembered and we hope that our participation in this event helps to raise money to find cures for lung diseases so no one else will experience his pain.”
The Johnston-Grimes Fire Department wants the public to know about this event as lung cancer touches many lives.
“By participating in this event, we help the American Lung Association raise money that goes directly to providing funding for research and care of those affected,” Johnson said.
It also provide a difficult physical challenge for those who are up to it.
“Climbing the buildings will give you a good appreciation for every breath you take and how difficult it could be for those who suffer from lung diseases, where every activity could be comparable to our climb in the buildings,” Johnson said.
Johnson said that the American Lung Association will use the money it raises to fund research seeking a cure for lung disease and to provide support for those battling lung diseases. Due to their exposure to smoke, Johnson said, firefighters can carry a much higher risk of contracting lung disease. There is also a symbolic angle that this event holds for firefighters in connection with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“On that day, 343 firefighters climbed the stairs at the World Trade Center towers in efforts to save their fellow citizens,” Johnson said. ”We encourage everyone to participate with us.”
In order to help, the public can register to climb with the firefighters at fightforairclimb.org/desmoines or volunteer with the American Lung Association. Also, sending a financial donation to the team can help the Johnston-Grimes Fire Department to reach its fundraising goals and make a positive difference.