Portland beat them last year.
Not this time.
Team Captain Dan Masselli led team Maine's Bravest in the "Fight for Air Climb" fundraiser in Boston last month for the American Lung Association. The fully geared Auburn firefighters ran up 41 stories of stairs faster than anybody: 8 minutes 5 seconds.
And this time, Portland firefighters came in behind them.
Masselli, a 1995 Edward Little grad, has been an Auburn firefighter for a little over 10 years. For the event, the team raised almost $5,000, well past Masselli's $3,500 goal.
He calls next year's goal "lofty": $20,000.
"The way I look at it, if you don't go big, you don't achieve anything close," Masselli said.
Please set the scene for the event: People dressed in their best athletic warrior garb (this is what I call workout clothes, because people who work out are warriors), and either getting psyched up to compete in the day's event or visually exhausted because they've just completed their goal of climbing up 82 flights of stairs as fast as they can. Inside the lobby of this 41-story building, the hum generated by a jubilant crowd fills the air and the excitement is contagious.
The civilians have all taken their turn competing against one another. Now you are geared up and headed down to take your place in line as your team of firefighters waits anxiously with anticipation to compete against 41 other dedicated firefighter teams. The line draws ever closer until you are nearing the start line at the base of the first of the 789 stairs that you will climb. You take a moment to remember why you are doing this to your body. You are going to fight for air so others won't have to. You look up and you're next. You take a deep breath and watch the clock count down to the time when it's your turn to go to work. 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . GO!
What's the internal dialogue in your head at floor 39? You've far surpassed the point where you ask yourself, "Why on God's great Earth am I doing this . . . again?!" By now your mind has switched from survival mode after trying to get into a good breathing rhythm to competition mode and trying not to let anyone pass you.
Can you break down the weight of your gear? From my feet, the boots I wear are about 3 to 5 pounds, the pants and coat are another 10 pounds, the helmet is about 2 pounds and the air-pack with a mask is around 30 pounds.
You've climbed 41 stories. Do you get to take an elevator down? They have one available, but as tired as your legs are, the people at the top filter you toward another stairwell to go back down.
What made you want to become a firefighter? Honestly, it sounds cliche but I enjoyed helping people and I didn't have a better job. A longtime friend and Auburn firefighter suggested I train to do what he did.
What is the highlight of your career, so far? It's hard to name a single one because I look at the job as something very special in itself, but when I delivered a baby for the first time in someone's house, it was pretty cool. I found it hard not to smile for the rest of the day.
What has been the most unusual experience on the job? Probably 85 percent of the calls we do have some sort of interesting aspect to them. I have a couple unusual ones in mind, but they're probably not appropriate for your readers.
Oh, c'mon, just one example . . . A car accident in my neighborhood, strangely enough. I live in Auburn, in a really off-the-beaten-path neighborhood, and we wound up getting a call for a motor vehicle crash into a tree with extrication that needed to be done. Everyone's going, "Field Ave? What the hell? How can you go that fast and need extrication?" The kids that were driving were just going way too fast for the area, came around the corner, lost control and wound up flipping their car into a tree. They were pinned pretty bad. An unexpected call in a particular area.
Any advice to drivers and/or homeowners during the Maine winter? Yeah, I have two. First, have your house number CLEARLY visible. If you have to call "911" for an emergency, time is critical and if we can't see your address, it makes it harder for us to help you. Second, please, please, PLEASE clear your vehicle of snow BEFORE you drive anywhere. The wind generated by your driving is not going to clear it for you! Think of the others around you and drive safely.