Carson City firefighters climb for a cure

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - For the Carson City firefighters, climbing flights of stairs to save the lives of those in danger is something they do on a regular basis, but Johnathan Wielkie, a Carson firefighter paramedic, said this stair climb has a different purpose.

"I’m climbing for a cure, I’m climbing for the people past, present, and future that hasn’t been able to battle this properly," Wielkie said.

A search for a cure to leukemia and lymphoma, both are forms of blood cancer that firefighters said is common among them, due to the exposure of cancer-causing agents that are released from fires. Wielkie said during the 69 flights of stairs he was thinking about those who have been impacted by this illness.

"It’s a disease that you know about, but no one really knows how much it affects us. I think the rough number is every 3 minutes someone gets diagnosed with some form of cancer, and usually its lymphoma to leukemia,” explained Wielkie.

The Carson firefighters are part of over 2000 from around the world, each of them climbing 69 flights, that's 1356 steps and 788 feet of vertical elevation, all to raise awareness. Firefighter Bret Waszkiewicz said he thought about his loved ones who are affected and the battle they face, which made the climb more tolerable for him.

"All of it takes a back seat, we can push through a little bit of pain just to push them through their fight," said Waszkiewicz.

The international association of firefighters says cancer is their leading cause of death. Captain Corey Petty claimed it takes a toll on everyone.

"Financially it destroys families. To pay for all this stuff is such a huge burden on everyone’s family, that we need to do what we can to try to make things better and get more treatment options out there," Petty said.

Firefighters in Northern Nevada are getting closer to finding a cure, one flight of stairs at a time.

Copyright KOLO-TV 2020