SPOKANE, Wash. – Firefighters are used to saving lives.That can involve carrying someone out of a burning building or even rescuing a cat from a tree.

On March 12, local firefighters will don their gear for a much different lifesaving effort.

Local firefighters are participating in the Scott Firefighter Stair Climb in an effort to fight deadly diseases. The event sends crews up 69 flights of stairs in Seattle's Columbia Center, in their 50 pounds of gear, to raise awareness and donations for leukemia and lymphoma.

In 2016, the Seattle event featured nearly 2,000 firefighters and raised $2.3 million.

“All firefighters are usually in pretty good shape,” said Heather Nelson. “I’m extremely nervous…I’m really nervous, but, yeah, we all train hard for it, so hopefully it will be good.”

Heather Nelson participates in the stair climb in an effort to help others. 

For Nelson, the plea for blood donations is personal. In addition to fighting fires, Nelson works part time for the Inland Northwest Blood Center. The battle against cancer is also personal for Nelson.

“My mother passed away in 2009 from cancer. It wasn’t of the blood variety, but she was diagnosed and then passed away a week later, so it was very quick,” said Nelson. “[It was] a huge hit for me, and then a few years later my grandma also passed away from cancer, so it’s very, very close to home for me.”

Nelson always wanted to be a firefighter because she wanted to help people. This month, she will practice with her teammates and join them in the climb.

“It hits home for me because of both my mother and my grandmother, and I want to be able to help prevent other people form ever experiencing any of that. I would never want anyone to have to go through the things that I went through,” said Nelson. “I didn’t actually start in the fire service until after my mom passed away, so she never got to see me with that, which is unfortunate. But, my grandmother was my biggest fan and she was always extremely supportive of me and the fire service…I want to hold my head high and feel like I’m making both of them proud.”