By BILL SHEA
OTHO - A trio of Otho volunteer firefighters will race up the stairs of three Des Moines skyscrapers on Sunday, each wearing about 50 pounds of protective gear.
Each man knows he'll be out of breath when he finishes the vertical sprint. They also know that their efforts will raise money to help those who gasp for breath at the slightest exertion because of lung disease.
''We climb for those who can't and raise money for those who have trouble with their lungs,'' said firefighter Ryan Dornath.
Dornath is the captain of a three-man team that will participate in the Fight for Air Climb to be conducted by the American Lung Association.
He'll tackle the 17 floors and 369 steps of the EMC Insurance Companies building.
Firefighter Evan Pugh will climb the 32 floors and 446 steps of the Des Moines Marriott Downtown.
Fire Chief Marty Smith will race up the 19 floors and 364 steps of the Hub Tower.
Each had to raise a minimum of $100 in pledges to participate. The American Lung Association will receive at least $300 as a result of the firefighters' effort.
This will be the fourth year that a group of Otho firefighters has participated in the Fight for Air Climb. Dornath has completed the climb three times and Pugh has done so twice. It is Smith's first year in the event. He said he got the team started this year by announcing that he was going to take part and then challenged the younger firefighters to join him.
The three have been training by running around the fire station and dashing up and down its staircase.
Dornath described the event as an exercise in physical fitness and team building.
During Sunday's event, they will wear their helmets, protective coats and pants, boots and the air tanks known as self-contained breathing apparatus.
Their times will be recorded and compared against those of other firefighters. An award will be presented to the team of volunteer firefighters that clocks the lowest combined time. A similar award will be given to a team of paid firefighters.
Awards will also be presented for the best individual time and the team that raises the most money.