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Memorial Firefighter Stair Climb honours fallen heroes

10 September 2019

Over 200 firefighters will climb 52 stories of the Auckland Sky Tower in memory of the September 11 World Trade Centre attacks, as well as honouring those New Zealand firefighters who have their lives in the line of duty.

The Memorial Firefighter Stair Climb will honour every New Zealand firefighter who lost their life in the line of duty since 1872, with the date of 9/11 chosen to coincide with the worst firefighter tragedy in recent history. This year will mark the 11th anniversary of the commemorative event, which will see firefighters from around New Zealand and the United States come together to remember those lost; paying homage to the fire service’s strong sense of camaraderie worldwide.

Tony Scott of Auckland Airport rescue Fire Service was inspired to start the memorial climb following the 2009 cool store fire in Tamahere, Hamilton, where Derek Lovell lost his life and several Kiwi firefighters were injured.

The event will pay tribute to each individual firefighter, with the names of the 343 firefighters form the New York Fire Department and all 59 names of New Zealand firefighters read out, followed by a prayer. Each firefighter will also carry a special tag with them of an individual firefighter lost in the line of duty, dedicating their climb to the memory of that person.

2019 will mark the 18th anniversary of the September 11 tragedy, and New Zealand firefighters will be the first in the world to hold a memorial event on that day.

Three chiefs from the New York Fire Department will be attending the event, John Buckheit, Chief Howard Hill and Battalion Chief David Morkal.

John Buckheit is a 34 year member of F.D.N.Y. He served in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan, including 8 years as a Battalion Chief in Mid-Town’s 7th Battalion. He currently works as a Deputy Assistant Chief in the Bureau of Fire Prevention.

Chief Howard Hill was a 34-year veteran of the New York Fire Department. He joined the FDNY in December of 1972 and after graduating from the Fire Academy in 1973 he was assigned to Engine Company 26 on the west side of Midtown Manhattan. In 1981 he transferred to Ladder 9 in the Lower East side of Manhattan. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1987 and assigned to Ladder 7 in east side of Midtown Manhattan. In 2005 he was assigned to the Bureau of Fire Prevention and in 2006 was promoted to Assistant Chief in charge of the Bureau of Fire Prevention.

Battalion Chief David Morkal is a 29 year veteran with the FDNY. Promoted to Lieutenant the week after the World Trade Center attacks, Chief Morkal has taken every opportunity to study leadership and enhance his leadership knowledge. He is a graduate of the FDNY’s Fire Officers Management Institute (FOMI), Advanced Leadership Course (ALC), West Point Combating Terrorism Leadership Program, L-380 “The Point of the Spear”, L-381 “Incident Leadership”L-481, and L-580, Staff Ride at Gettysburg National Military Park.

The Memorial Firefighter Stair Climb will take place on Wednesday 11th September, starting at 12:30pm with a procession down Federal Street to the Sky Tower, and formalities from 2:30pm. This is the fifth year the event has been held at the Sky Tower.


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