LLS Firefighter Stairclimb 2024

Seattle Fire - Team Tristan

 Climb. Conquer. Cure.

69 Flights I 1,356 Steps I 788 Ft. Vertical Elevation

Climb. Conquer. Cure.

Hello! Our fire department will be participating in the 32nd annual LLS Firefighter Stairclimb on Sunday, March 12, 2023 in support of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). Before we ascend the Columbia Center in downtown Seattle, WA, we will be raising funds throughout the season in the name of funding and finding a cure. Please consider making a donation to not only help us achieve our personal fundraising goal, but to benefit patients and their families everywhere.

Why is the Seattle Fire Stair climb team dedicated to Tristan Smith?



Tristan Smith was a Seattle Firefighter assigned to Ladder 8-A who ultimately lost his battle with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2015. He is not the first Seattle Firefighter, nor the last to be lost to Blood Cancer, but why is the team dedicated to his memory? 


Prior to joining the Seattle Fire Department Tristan had worked as a Backcountry Ranger for the National Parks Service at Olympic National Park. He was a leader there who excelled at patrolling the backcountry assisting hikers and climbers, performing rescues, and guarding against illegal activities (eg. Old Growth tree poaching). He was extremely good at his job but wanted more. He began his path in the Fire Service as a volunteer at Clallam County and Paramedic with Olympic Ambulance. He wanted to have the opportunity to take his skills to the next level was ultimately hired by Seattle.  

After his probationary time he was assigned to Ladder 8-A and quickly became a vital member of that crew. His passion for excellence and his joy for life was infectious to all with whom he contacted. This extended from the job to his passion for the outdoors (hiking, surfing, etc.), music, and his devotion to his wife and friends. His generosity and joy touched his crew, Station 18, Battalion 4, and beyond.  

In May 2014 his energy levels began to wane and it became apparent that something was amiss with Tristan. At the insistence of his wife, a nurse, he went to the Doc to have an evaluation and the results of that was the diagnosis of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Not a good piece of news. Blood Cancers are considered to be a presumptive form of cancer for firefighters as they affect us at a rate at least 50% higher than the general population. The bad news for Tristan got worse when it was determined that to be considered an Occupational illness it requires that you have worked as a firefighter for a minimum of 5 years. Tristan was a few months shy of that duration so his case was denied as an Occupational illness. Good news Seattle Fire Dept has very good health insurance. Tristan went off work for treatment and true to form refused to become a victim and approached his treatment battling this terrible disease with his usual enthusiasm. Because treatment was prolonged he used all his sick leave, merit time, saved vacation, scheduled vacation, and ultimately maxed out all possible donated sick leave. Options were quickly becoming desperate as he was facing unpaid leave and loss of health care benefits. Try covering cancer treatment without health insurance!!!! At this point Fire Department members stepped in and began working voluntary relief for him so that he could maintain an income and more importantly insurance benefits. These efforts were fully supported by L27, 2898, and the administration. This continued for a year and a half and included over shifts worked. 

Back to the Stairclimb Team. The Stairclimb had progressively grown in size and popularity froit’s inception. The first year Seattle participated, 1997, 3 of us from Seattle climbed and the winning fundraising team raised an astounding $5,000. By 2014 the event had grown to include 1500 firefighters and the top fund raising team, Boise Fire, had raised  $74,000! Seattle fielded 37 climbers in 2014. In 2015, with Tristan battling Lymphoma, meetings with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society took place with the goal of motivating 100 Seattle Firefighters to climb the Columbia Tower and raising $100k. If that could be achieved, we would have the opportunity to dedicate all funds raised by Seattle to a specific group of our choosing. As a show of support for Tristan we registered 105 climbers by January 2015. Injuries and illnesses whittled the team down to 97 climbers on the day of the event, falling just sort of that goal (Still the largest single team to have ever climbed). Fund-raising was passionate throughout and in the end Seattle Fire became the top Fund-raising team with a total of $108,275, mission accomplished! All the $$ raised by Seattle Fire went directly to a research group working on treatment for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. The passion and enthusiasm from the team and the continued voluntary relief was a huge statement of support for Tristan, his wife, and his crew. Seattle Fire had arrived and made it's presence felt and in 2016 Seattle Fire-Team Tristan saw 91 climbers raise $79,413 again. Unfortunately, Tristan lost his battle a month after the climb on April 14, 2016, at the age 39. Blood Cancer knows no age limit and can strike anyone at any time! 

2015 and Team Tristan raised the bar not only for Seattle but also motivated other departments to push the limits subsequent years. for years. Seattle remains a leader in fundraising with a cumulative total over the years of just under $800,000 and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society annually gives the “Tristan Smith Inspirational Award to a climber who demonstrates passion and dedication fighting for the cause. 

Tristan is no longer with us but his spirit lives on. Blood Cancer most recently took Lt. Luis Batayola from us and there will likely be others in the future. Fighting Blood Cancer has far reaching affects as the treatment techniques developed for these cancers are now found to be very effective for many other forms of cancer. Treatments are progressively improving but there is still a long way to go. Continued efforts to find new treatments should be a cause that all firefighters should have ownership of. Tristan’s passion and dedication should be an inspiration to all who continue to climb and fund-raise for the cause.  

As an aside, at the same time a number of folks have inquired about the use of the Seahawks logo on our shirts. At the same time the team dedicated itself to Tristan, talks were underway with the Seahawks as they were demonstrating their pursuit of excellence and winning their battles. After a good deal of discussion and with their permission as well as permission from the NFL we became one of the only groups approved to use the official logo as part of our team logo. Whether you are a Hawks fan or not it is there as a symbol of the desire to battle and fight for winning the battle with Blood Cancers. 




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