Omaha Firefighter Rich Nieto stepped into the lobby at First National Tower, pulled on his coat, breathing pack and helmet — a bright fire-engine red.
There were no flames and there was no smoke, just 40 flights of stairs.
He and five other firefighters — each in gear weighing 65 pounds — climbed the stairs Saturday during the annual Trek Up the Tower.
About 2,000 people signed up for the race in downtown Omaha — 870 steps to the top of the tallest building in the state. The building rises 633 feet.
Four firefighters from Omaha and two from Ralston kicked off the event shortly after 7 a.m.
“It's a representation of the Fire Department and what we do,” Nieto said. “We're not going for any records. It's a matter of getting up there.”
The first firefighter to reach the top, Jacob Chandler, finished in 8 minutes, 37 seconds.
That, according to event organizers, was about five minutes faster than many participants — and they weren't wearing an extra 65 pounds on their backs.
Ivan Marsh, who has won the event every year since it began in 2007, finished in a record 4 minutes, 15 seconds.
“We barely made it to the top in the elevator before he finished,” said race organizer Rebecca Vinton Dorn. She is the executive director of the Wellness Council of the Midlands, one of the event sponsors.
“Our mission is all about creating a culture of wellness at the worksite. This epitomizes (that),” she said.
Nikki Perry, 34, of Lincoln finished first among women and 14th overall with a time of 5 minutes, 43 seconds.
Ned Greene of Lincoln went up the tower for the sixth time this year. The 68-year-old hoped to finish in less than 6 minutes, 20 seconds, his personal best, but fell 12 seconds short.
He'll be back next year to try again.
“It's exhilarating to finish,” Greene said.
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