Tower he­roes raise big funds

Fire­fight­ers take the chal­lenge

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By NEIL RAT­LEY

Frank­ton and Queen­stown vol­un­teer fire­fighter Gab­bie Ernst was the stand­out Cen­tral Otago per­former at the Fire­fight­ers Sky Tower Chal­lenge on the weekend.

The 29-year-old bank worker blitzed the 51 flights of stairs in 14 min­utes and 29 sec­onds laden with 25kg of equip­ment and breath­ing ap­pa­ra­tus to be the fastest fe­male fire­fighter in the open women’s cat­e­gory to reach the top of the fa­mous Auck­land land­mark.

‘‘It felt like I was breath­ing through a straw and my chest was about to ex­plode,’’ she said af­ter­wards. She was not the only one. Wanaka’s Glen Thurston led a strong per­for­mance from his bri­gade (5th team over­all) fin­ish­ing 5th in the open men’s cat­e­gory with a time of 10 min­utes and 18 sec­onds.

The seven mem­bers made up the largest team to travel from Wanaka. Three were first timers and the oth­ers all ran per­sonal bests and were vow­ing to re­turn next year, he said.

‘‘It’s like noth­ing I’ve ever done be­fore. It’s painfully ad­dic­tive. I love it. You get to the top and you’re just about dy­ing.’’

They were among 35 fire fighters from bri­gades in Cen­tral Otago Area com­pet­ing: Alexan­dra, Cromwell, Frank­ton, Lawrence, Omakau, Queen­stown, Waitahuna and Wanaka.

The teams raised more than $38,000 for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand with Daniel Wark from Waitahuna Vol­un­teer Fire Bri­gade earn­ing the sec­ond place award for an in­di­vid­ual fund raiser rais­ing $7414 from the sur­round­ing Waitahuna com­mu­nity of less than 400 people.

In to­tal there were 700 fire­fight­ers – in­clud­ing sev­eral from Aus­tralia and the United States – who raced up the tower steps in full kit at the weekend.

Ernst, who fin­ished sec­ond over­all be­hind San­dra Hearn, of Mel­bourne, who com­peted in the Masters sec­tion said run­ning up and down the peaks sur­round­ing Lake Wakatipu pro­vided a head start but climb­ing the Sky Tower in full kit was ‘‘re­ally dif­fer­ent’’ and the chal­lenge was as much men­tal as phys­i­cal.

Next year she will take a break, in­stead tak­ing part in a 100km race in Syd­ney, but plans to tackle the Sky Tower again.

‘‘I will be back. I want to break the record.’’


Into it: Painfully ad­dic­tive . . .Wanaka’s Glen Thurston at the fin­ish line of the Fire­fight­ers Sky Tower Chal­lenge at the weekend.


Big day: Cen­tral Otago fire­fight­ers raised $38,000 for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand with their weekend race up the Auck­land Sky Tower in full fire fight­ing equip­ment at the weekend.


Vic­tory: Queen­stown vol­un­teer fire­fighter Gab­bie Ernst holds up the medals she earned at the weekend for be­ing the fastest fe­male fire­fighter in the open women’s cat­e­gory to climb 1103 steps in the Fire­fight­ers Sky Tower Chal­lenge.

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