Conway firefighters in full gear climb 110 flights of stairs to honor 9/11 victims

Franklin County

CONWAY, Mass. (WWLP) – 343 firefighters died on 9/11 and every year, team Hilltown343 goes to New York for the National Stair Climb for the fallen firefighters.

“This year it’s kind of back to where I started with myself and one other person doing it,” said Hilltown343 Captain Gemma Vanderheld.

This year, the climb looks different due to COVID-19.

Vanderheld told 22News, “It was important to still do it even though nothing this year is normal, everything is different.”

The annual stair climb was canceled in New York, so Hilltown343 did it right in their own firehouse Saturday. Firefighters from the Conway Fire Department climbed roughly 110 laps and they did it in 80 lbs of gear.

“This is considered structural firefighter’s gear,” Vanderheld explained. “This is what the firefighters on 9/11 would have been wearing going into a collapsing structure.”

The Conway Fire Department also raised funds for their Conway Volunteer Firemen’s Relief Association by hosting a boot drive Saturday.

“Our biggest thing is to raise money for our relief fund so if a firefighter is hurt or injured we can donate money towards that,” Conway Fire Lt. Nick Vanderheld told 22News. “God forbid anybody gets killed in the line of duty that money would be able to go towards their family.”

Saturday was the same date of the team’s first climb in New York five years ago. This year, Hilltown343’s fundraising goal is $3,000 and they’ll be collecting donations through December.

If you would like to make a donation to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and support team Hilltown343, click here.

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