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Orange Firefighters Dash Up 34 Floors as Part of Fund-Raiser; Team from Orange Volunteer Fire Dept. raises more than $3000 for American Lung Association

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April 29, 2024 | CONNECTICUT DOUG FENICHEL, Correspondent
This article is a direct street report from our correspondent and has not been edited by the 1st Responder newsroom.

ORANGE, CT - A team of Orange, Conn., volunteer firefighters dashed up 34 floors recently and, although they were wearing full structural firefighting gear, there was no fire at the top of the stairs. Instead, there was hope for curing lung diseases.

The eight firefighters took part in the April 6 Fight for Air fund-raiser for the American Lung Association. The event took place at Connecticut’s fifth tallest building, Hartford21, a 36-floor residential tower on Trumbull Street in Hartford.

For Capt. Eric Demeraski, who led the team, the relationship between firefighters and lung disease is a natural one.

“As firefighters, lung disease is an occupational hazard we face because of the nasty smoke we deal with,” he said. Firefighters must use cylinders of compressed air worn on their backs to work in the poisonous atmosphere of a fire. “Being able to take a deep breath and to conserve your air is incredibly important. Your air bottle is your lifeline in a fire. The better you can control your breathing and conserve your air, the better off you are.” 

Demeraski said he hoped the Fight for Air event would help firefighters already suffering from cancer and other lung diseases and help future firefighters avoid the illnesses.

In addition to Demeraski, the team was made up of Capt. Dan Abrams, Firefighters Jesse Bartha, Jen Botsko, Noah Clark, Scott Horowitz, Walter Joseph, and Cole Tennant. As active firefighters, the group was already in good physical condition. The team worked out together and individually. As the event approached, they donned their protective clothing and their air bottles and used a stair-climbing exercise machine in the firehouse bay.

Physical exertion was just one challenge team members had to overcome as they ran up 688 steps in 75 pounds worth of firefighting gear. 

“A lot of it was mental,” said Demeraski. “You start to get tired. Your body says you don’t want to do this anymore. You have to work through that. But that’s just like being a firefighter. Your mind says you shouldn’t run into that burning building, but you have to overcome that to perform the job.” 

All eight firefighters finished. And as a team, they raised $3,241.49 for the American Lung Association. Supporters can increase that amount by donating to the American Lung Association through the Orange firefighters by clicking on

“I’m really proud of the team,” said Demeraski. “We had seasoned firefighters and brand new firefighters. Everybody made it up the stairs at their own pace.” That camaraderie and teamwork is a hallmark of the fire service, he said.

 So is working for causes like the American Lung Association, he added. Demeraski, for whom this was the third Climb for Air, says he’s looking forward to assembling a team again next year. 

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DOUG FENICHELCorrespondent

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