Marshalltown Fire Department retains stair climbing title

For the fourth year in a row, the Marshalltown Fire Department’s team has won the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb competition.

Marshalltown Fire Chief Steve Edwards recognized the firefighters accomplishment at Monday night’s city council meeting. He said the team’s win typifies the kind of team work indicative of the MFD and other area agencies. That dedication and cooperation came into crisp focus during the fire at The Villager apartment complex Sunday, he said.

With Marshalltown Area Paramedic Services, Police Department and the Red Cross all lending a hand, it is easy see why the team is four-time champs, he said.

“When I was working that fire, one of the things that hit home was how well we all work together,” he said. “It gives me a great deal of pride.”

The firefighters – Chad Jones, 40, Nathan White, 31, and Dan Oswald, 23 – have been together since the department’s first competition. And although the format has changed since then, their strategy has not.

“You have to be physically fit,” Jones said.

The men said having mandated physical fitness time during their shifts helps them stay in shape, but they each also workout extensively on their own time as well. The job demands it of them, they said.

The competition, which took place Sunday, pitted firefighters from across the state against one another in a stair climbing drill. Each of the four teams climbed three of the largest buildings in Des Moines: the downtown Marriott, Hub Tower and the EMC Insurance building. Each firefighter takes one building and scales the stairs in full gear. The fastest combined times wins the competition.

The team has won by a margins ranging from 1.5 to 3 minutes in each of the years it has competed. No team has ever won the competition four years running. The American Lung Association gives the winning team a traveling trophy with the department’s name engraved on it.

“It is something the community should be proud of,” Jones said.

Competitors paid a $15 or $25 registration fee and the American Lung Association required them each to raise another $100 for the event, said Renee Searle, special events coordinator for the American Lung Association. The non-profit put 88 percent of the money toward its advocacy and research programs. The rest went to cover operating costs.

Preliminary estimates show that the American Lung Association raised $193,000, exceeding its $176,000 goal.

Although the team is unsure whether it will compete again next year, White said he is confident his team can retain the title should it decide to do so.

“We challenge any fire department in the state,” he said.