Jake’s climbing for a cure

DIGGING DEEP: Jake West (centre) has received overwhelming support from members of his brigade including (left to right) David Parker, Lauren Wait and Zac Ruston.
DIGGING DEEP: Jake West (centre) has received overwhelming support from members of his brigade including (left to right) David Parker, Lauren Wait and Zac Ruston.

Firefighter Jake West has been climbing to the top of the west side water tower for more than just the view.

The 21-year-old emergency service worker is in training.

Come September the climb to the top of the look-out will seem like a walk in the park as he tackles a gruelling 28 floors to the top of the Crown Metropol Hotel in Melbourne. 

Wearing 25 kilograms of turnout gear and breathing apparatus, Jake is one of many firefighters around the country who will step up in the Melbourne Firefighter Stair Climb to fight depression, PTSD and suicide. 

But that’s only a warm up. Just one month later in October, Jake will travel to Sydney tackle a new flight of stairs for a cause close to his heart – Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

Firefighters Climb for Motor Neurone Disease is an event that will test Jake mentally and physically as he climbs 98 storeys, 1504 stairs, of the Sydney Tower Eye.

When asked why his reply was simple; “Because I’m an idiot,” he laughed.

“One of my good friends from high school has been diagnosed and its just horrible to watch because it’s your body that goes but your brain stays at 100 per cent brain function, so you realise you can’t control your own body anymore.

“My friend also thinks I’m an idiot, but he’s happy I’m doing it.”

At a rise of 820 feet, the climb to the observation deck is a gruelling challenge – especially when wearing full structural firefighting ensemble and air sets with a combined weight of over 20 kilograms.

Each floor of the stairwell is dedicated patients of MND both past and present and it’s described a harrowing journey supporting those living with the horrific disease.

“The people suffering MND are going to be a lot sorer than I am climbing some stairs,” Jake said.

“It’s just a good cause with a good bunch of people. It’s good to be able to help out.”

The event began in 2015, and has raised over $1,300,000 since inception thanks to overwhelming support from the firefighting community and the general public.

All money raised goes towards university research to find a cure for the debilitating disease.

Currently Macquarie University employs over 70 researchers and 12 clinicians involved in the research effort into MND.

As a result of the fundraising effort Macquarie University has started two new clinical trials to slow and stop MND, giving hope to people living with what was once considered an incurable disease.