Almont, Dryden, Imlay City teams join 2021 ‘Air Climb’


Dryden Fire Dept. Team Captain Jim Napolitano, Firefighter Mike Plotzke and Amy Barger were among those to scale the steps at Comerica Park during the ALA’s 2021 ‘Fight for Air’ Stair Climb.

TRI-CITY AREA — Firefighters from Imlay City, Almont and Dryden participated in last month’s (May 23) 15th annual American Lung Association 2021 “Fight for Air” Stair Climb at Comerica Park in Detroit.

Louis Kepler, who represented the Imlay City department, said local firefighters were among numerous others who endured 87 degree temperatures while attired in full turnout gear and air packs.

The participants were challenged to climb up and down 15 flights of stairs at Comerica Park—the equivalent of 2,123 stair steps.

Kepler noted that generous donations from firefighter’s supporters and team members helped raise more than $351,000 for Michigan’s Chapter of the American Lung Association (ALA).

He said the amount raised exceeded this year’s goal of $206,000 for the 2021 ALA fundraising campaign.

“The money raised from the event will be used to support various lung disease prevention programs which can help millions of people every year.”

Kepler also acknowledged the Almont and Dryden fire departments for their participation and support at the event.

Dryden team

The Dryden team consisted of Team Captain Jim Napolitano, Amy Barger, Hannah Munck, Mike Plotzke and his girlfriend, Katie Russell, who raised $535 at the event.

Napolitano credited the Dryden team for braving the brutal heat at this year’s “Fight for Air” stair climb.

“This year was special, as it was moved to a truly iconic location at Comerica Park,” Napolitano said. “Dryden has had members participating in the climb since 2011. We’ve found the event to be an amazing challenge for an incredible cause.

“With temperatures inching toward 90 degrees,” he continued, “two members of the team climbed in full turnout gear and air tanks—making an already hot afternoon almost unbearable.”

Napolitano said the American Lung Association is held near and dear to the hearts of Dryden firefighters and medical first responders.

“As first responders, we have seen the impact of lung disease first hand,” he said. “We know the work the ALA is doing makes a clear difference in informing people about the risks of lung disease and educating them on how to avoid it.”

Almont team

Almont Fire Chief Don Smith acknowledged the extraordinary efforts of Almont’s team, which included Fire Capt. Brent Smith, 4th year; Danny Howe, 4th year; Andrew Ruthenburg, 4th year; Mike Bevins, 2nd year; and Holly Bevins, 1st year.

“Speaking with our firefighters after the event, they all agreed this was the toughest year yet,” Chief Smith said. “The factors that played into this year’s climb were the hot day, the sun beating down, and the short step height.

“As you can see by the number of times these firefighters have attended, this group is dedicated to the cause,” he continued. “Almont Fire and Rescue salutes these men and women and we are proud to have them on our team.

“They are the perfect example of the heart and determination you find in the volunteer fire fighter,” Smith added. “They come to complete the task; they are not easily turned away.”

The Almont team raised $995 for the ALA during the event. The three local teams collectively raised $1,665 for the cause.

COVID factor

Napolitano noted that with COVID-19 affecting thousands of people in Detroit, the money raised from the “Fight For Air” climb will help fund the Lung Association’s efforts to help those impacted by the virus.

“These funds will be used to support the Lung Association’s COVID-19 Action Initiative; a $25 million investment to address COVID-19 and protect against future respiratory virus pandemics.”

Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.