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Firemen honor those who died in stair climb

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    Local firefighters battled the heat and climbed the equivalent of 110 stories in full gear at the Tamaqua Hi-Rise on Sunday to honor fallen first responders. See a video from the event at tnonline.com. JUSTIN CARLUCCI/TIMES NEWS

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    A group of climb participants try to cool down after trekking 110 stories on Sunday. From left, Jon Hadesty, Nick Hollenbach and Jay Stidham. JUSTIN CARLUCCI/TIMES NEWS

Published August 19. 2019 12:15PM

The 2019 Schuylkill Firemen’s convention is underway.

The weeklong celebration kicked off on Sunday with a stair-climb ceremony at the Tamaqua Hi-Rise to pay tribute to fallen firefighters and first responders.

“It’s something that the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation does for the firefighters who don’t come home,” said fire chief Jim Connely. “It’s our first year doing it and we got 13 participants. We’re thinking about doing it again next year. Thirteen doesn’t sound like a lot, but we’re happy with that. If we push advertising more I think there will be a better result.”

The climb is open to anyone, but most participants on Sunday were local firefighters, who battled the 95-degree heat and climbed the equivalent of 110 stories up-and-down. Most of the fighters were in their full gear during the climb.

“It’s a challenge,” said Connely, who took a quick break in the middle of his climb. “I’m three down and four more climbs to go. Everybody that’s doing it never thought it would be this tough, but it is.”

Proceeds of the event were donated to the Lehigh Valley Health Network Burn Center. There were physicians on site to make sure all of the participants were well.

“We have the St. Luke’s hospital emergency personnel here to monitor the well-being of the climbers,” Connely said. “We have Tamaqua ambulance, Lehighton EMS and to make sure the climbers are safe. If they see someone in distress, they pull them aside and make sure they’re well.”

Each climber wore the name of a late first responder on a lanyard during the event.

“We all have a tag. We did the line of duty deaths for the past year, so everyone has a name they’re climbing for. At the end of the climb, the people will get a chance to do a bell call for the people they’re walking for.

Sunday’s event marked the beginning of a busy week in Tamaqua. There will be a training event at the South Ward Fire Company tonight, a convention dinner meeting on Thursday, while the week is capped off next Saturday with the parade.

Registration for the parade is from 8 to 11 a.m. at the South Ward Fire Company with judging from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Tamaqua Area Senior High School and Middle School.

The parade will lineup at Lehigh Street, Rowe Street, Swatara Street and Old Route 209.

The parade begins at 1 p.m.

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