Local firefighter finds new motivation for LLS Firefighter Stairclimb after mother’s cancer diagnosis

South King Fire & Rescue’s team of 7 to climb Sunday, March 13.

Seven South King Fire & Rescue firefighters are preparing to climb 69 flights of stairs next month for the LLS Firefighter Stairclimb.

Donning full turnout gear and breathing apparatus, firefighters climb flights of stairs to the 73rd floor of the Columbia Center tower in Seattle for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The nonprofit has raised more than $22 million since its inception in 1991 for blood cancer research, patient services and policy goal advocacy.

This year’s climb — and the first in-person event in three years — is set for Sunday, March 13.

“It’s going to be awesome getting back in person,” said firefighter James Hampson. “Also, the department’s morale has taken a big hit … it’ll be nice to bring the camaraderie back.”

For the first several years, Hampson competed in the stairclimb as a challenge to himself, to compete against teammates and to witness the traditions.

More than 2,000 firefighters from around the country and the world participate in the stair climb annually.

This year, Hampson is climbing for a new cause.

In fall of 2020, his mother, Janet, was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, a blood-cell cancer that develops in the bone marrow.

“I remember her calling me on my way home from work,” Hampson said. At the time, he and his wife were expecting their first child. “I immediately had thoughts of if my mom would be there to see my daughter grow up.”

Luckily, doctors discovered the cancer early on when Janet was undergoing a different procedure. With successful treatments, she now gets to spend time watching her 1-year-old granddaughter grow up.

“The climb definitely had a lot more meaning to me now,” Hampson said. “I’m very thankful for all the donations gathered in the past because it may have helped my mother out somehow.”

South King Fire’s team taking on 788 feet of vertical elevation includes James Hampson, Jordan Barrett, Brett Connelly, Brian Moore, Tyler Morris, Mickey Randahl and Karl Wiggins.

So far, the team has raised $7,200 of a $10,000 goal.

The 31st annual LLS Firefighter Stairclimb is March 13. For more information on this year’s stairclimb or to donate to the South King Fire and Rescue team, visit llswa.org or scan the QR code below.

Entrance to the LLS Firefighter Stairclimb in Seattle. Photo courtesy of James Hampson

Entrance to the LLS Firefighter Stairclimb in Seattle. Photo courtesy of James Hampson