WESTPORT, Conn. Thirty-four: That's how many floors Westport firefighters Dan Ambruso, Ben Racho, Earl Hill and Ted Crawford will race up during the Fight for Air Climb at Trump Parc Tower in Stamford to help find a cure for lung cancer.
But they won't be climbing the 588 stairs in running shorts and T-shirts. Instead, they'll be dressed head to toe in their firefighter gear air tanks, masks and helmets included.
"I didn't get a chance to weigh my gear, but it adds at least 55 to 60 pounds," said Ambruso, the team's captain. "But the fact of the matter is, it's for charity."
The annual stair-climbing event is one of several held across the country to raise funds for the American Lung Association. Money raised goes to support lung cancer education, research and advocacy.
Although the climb is open to anyone, Ambruso said it attracts several teams from area fire departments, including Stamford, Norwalk and Ridgefield. During the event, these firefighter teams compete for fastest time.
Last year, Ambruso, Hill, Racho and Lt. Brett Kirby represented the Westport Fire Department. Together, they raised about $2,000. This year's team hopes to raise $2,500 , but Ambruso said fundraising has been tough because of the economy. And the team is down two firefighters who can no longer participate as the climb was postponed from its original date to this Saturday, during their shifts.
"It hasn't been easy. People are more hesitant to donate money," he said, adding the team has so far raised about $745. "But luckily, my family and friends have been supportive."
With regard to competing against other firefighters, Ambruso said the team is more concerned about the fundraising than the competition. However, he said he's hoping to improve his personal climb time from last year's 6 minutes and 46 seconds to 6 minutes and 30 seconds.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.