Smyrna Firefighters To ‘Climb For Air’

Preparing for the climb are, from left,  Tommy Bates, lieutenant; Paige Day, fire chief; Brooke Cowen, development manager American Lung Association; Benjie Eargle, fire engineer.

Preparing for the climb are, from left, Tommy Bates, lieutenant; Paige Day, fire chief; Brooke Cowen, development manager American Lung Association; Benjie Eargle, fire engineer.

If you spot a firefighter running down Atlanta Road at dawn in full gear, don’t worry – he’s not headed to any fire. It’s Lt. Tommy Bates training for his part in the American Lung Association of Georgia’s Fight for Air Climb taking place April 19 at One Ninety One Peachtree Tower in downtown Atlanta.

Spearheaded by fire Engineer Benjie Eargle, the Smyrna Fire Rescue Team is just a few dollars shy of reaching its goal of raising $1,000 in donations for this year’s climb.

Bates is leading the team in fundraising, having raised more than $700 on his own.
“I like to throw down the gauntlet,” Bates said. He is training harder this year, too, in hopes of making a personal best, completing the climb in less than 10 minutes.

Eargle has participated in the Lung Association’s Fight For Air Climb since its inception year in Atlanta eight years ago and involves himself in several vertical climbs across the southeast annually.
“For me, in part, it’s a personal physical challenge,” Eargle said. “Being in the fire service means we are here to help people. Breathing is sort of the single most important function of life.” And so he climbs.

Supporting the Lung Association however carries deeper meaning as well, having lost two family members to lung conditions including a 23-year-old nephew. “I dedicate my climb every year to the family members I have lost.”

It’s 51 floors to the top of the One Ninety One building – 1,200 steps in all. Firefighters, law enforcement, first responders and the general public participate every spring in this annual event. This year, the American Lung Association is hoping to attract more than 600 participants. Each commits to raising at least $100 for the cause.

For the firefighter, it’s a training event as well. While the general public tackles this vertical climb in running shorts and athletic shoes, the firefighters take on the challenge in full gear. It adds, on average, another 40 lbs of weight to each firefighter who climbs.

Smyrna’s new fire chief, Paige Day, is joining the climb. “If this is something my department supports, then I want to lead by example,” Day said. She takes personal fitness seriously and is an avid boxer.

“Also, it fits in with our mission. The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) adopted lung cancer as a key initiative this year. Anything I can do to help promote healthy lungs and raise awareness for this cause, I am going to get on board with,” she said.

Brooke Cowen,  Development Manager for the American Lung Association, said this year is shaping up to be one of the largest turnouts they have seen. “It is thanks to the hard work of people like Benjie and Tommy, and the other firefighters across the state and for the continued support. We thank a fantastic facility like the One Ninety One building that continues to draw support each year for this physical and fun challenge,” she said.

The Lung Association of Georgia is just one division of the national organization that aims to raise awareness and research into the areas of lung disease, cancer, asthma and COPD. It also works to educate and encourage clean air initiatives across the country.
The Smyrna Fire Rescue team oncludes Benjie Eargle, Thomas Bates, Paul Burns, Paige Day, Keith Dykes, Kristi Hyde, Jeff Rhinehart and Pabel Troche and is hoping to add a few more members before race day.

To make a contribution to the Smyrna Fire Rescue team or team member, or to sign up for the climb as a participant, visit For more information on the Lung Association of Georgia, visit or call 770-434-5864.

By D. Linsey Wisdom

From the April 2014 issue of The Bright Side, Cobb County Georgia’s Newspaper covering Smyrna, Vinings, Mableton and Austell, GA.