• Carmen Marie Fabio

Île Perrot firefighters aiming high for muscular dystrophy challenge


Île Perrot fire prevention specialist and firefighter-in-training Véronique Bourret (centre) and colleague firefighter Marc Laplante (left) will take part in the regular Défi Gratte Ciel climbing the Montreal Stock Exchange Tower staircase once while firefighter Perry Leacock (right) is aiming for the extreme challenge with a goal of climbing the stairs 15 times. All proceeds raised by the team go towards funding muscular dystrophy research and equipment.

How would you feel about responding to the challenge of climbing the staircase of a 48-storey downtown Montreal high-rise building? How about doing it more than once? Now imagine the same feat loaded with 50 lbs. of firefighting clothing and equipment weighing you down and, if you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can complete the feat wearing a pair of firefighters’ boots, just for fun.

That’s what three members of the Île Perrot Fire Department are looking forward to for the 17th Scott Montreal High Rise Challenge taking place Friday, May 16, at the Place Victoria Stock Exchange Tower to raise funds for muscular dystrophy research into treatments and specialized equipment for those in need.

“Firefighters have been helping this cause in Canada for the last 40 years,” said Île Perrot firefighter Marc Laplante, who discovered the High Rise Challenge quite by accident in 2011. Laplante said that though he initially signed up simply to be part of the team event, “Being in touch with people, including family members who have the disease is now the reason I take part. It’s such a tough disease and my (primary) reason now is really to help those people.”

While muscular dystrophy is often believed to be a condition present from birth, as in the most common and most severe form, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, strains of the hereditary disease can present up to around the age of 60 and typically affects males more than females.

Though some firefighters choose to wear full equipment to take part in the challenge, it’s not an obligation, thereby opening the competition to more participants. While Laplante completed the event alone the first year, he was followed in 2012 by two fellow Île Perrot team members - fire prevention specialist and firefighter-in-training Véronique Bourret, and firefighter Perry Leacock - and the trio will again face the stairs in two weeks’ time.

“The first year I did it with the full (equipment) bunker, without the oxygen tank,” said Laplante, who has, for subsequent challenges worn the tanks. “We don’t bring our axe or other tools. It’s too dangerous in the stairs.” Though a number of participants choose to wear more comfortable running shoes for the climb, Laplante and Bourret will be wearing the standardissue firefighter boots.

Laplante said the 48-storey challenge is comprised of 1125 stairs, a climb that last year took him 26 minutes, 30 seconds, or an average of 33 seconds per storey.

“At the 20th storey, I hit a wall,” Laplante said, but after taking a break for a minute or two, made even better time than the first half.

Laplante, 45, and Bourret, 35, will be taking on the personal challenge of completing the event, in full bunker, by climbing the staircase once aiming for a personal best time. Leacock, 53, is opting to push himself a little further by taking part in the ‘Extreme Challenge.’

“Last year I climbed 11 times in two hours, 45 minutes,” he said. “The year before, it took me two hours and 35 minutes. But then I aged a year.” This year, Leacock is looking to do the ascent 15 times, in full bunker, aiming to keep the time under three hours. The one concession he allows himself is a good pair of running shoes in lieu of the firefighting boots.