Firefighter mums taking on Sky Tower Challenge

Janette Baird (left) and Jasmine Holgate say that mothers bring many special talents to firefighting. Janette is pictured with sons Max Heydon (left) and Jack Baird and Jasmine with Tyson.

Mothers, fulltime workers and Manly Volunteer Fire Brigade firefighters Janette Baird and Jasmine Holgate are taking on the Sky Tower Stair Challenge on Saturday May 18.

Firefighters from all over New Zealand will race up the Sky Tower’s 51 flights of stairs wearing full gear to raise funds for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer NZ. Over the last three years, the annual event has raised more than $1 million.

This is the first time Janette and Jasmine have participated in the event.

“We want to challenge ourselves, but on a personal level, I want to support my friend with leukaemia” Janette says.

Janette is an early childhood teacher in Stanmore Bay, and Jasmine works at the BNZ. In addition to being first responders at the fire station, Janette is in charge of recruitment and Jasmine is the event coordinator.

Janette’s sons Max, 10, and Jack, 5, and Jasmine’s boys Carlos, 8, and Tyson, 5, go with their mums to train for the challenge, accompanying them to the gym or when they run up and down local flights of stairs.

The kids are well accustomed to participating in brigade life, attending the station at least once a week for Kids’ Club – a group for children whose parents volunteer at the Manly fire station.

“We watch movies, eat fish and chips, and celebrate holidays like Easter and Halloween. The kids really enjoy it,” Janette says.

The children are also taught first aid and fire safety skills at Kids’ Club, which came in handy when Janette’s own house caught on fire after her husband Douglas, the Manly Fire Station treasurer, was cooking chips.

“My husband yelled ‘fire’, but I thought he meant on my pager, so I looked and just said ‘no there isn’t’. The next thing I know, my pager is going off and it says my own address!” Janette says.

“By this time, my kids were already standing out by the letterbox which was exactly the right thing to do. They were so calm and handled it really well.”

While both Jasmine and Janette find firefighting a rewarding challenge, they say they understand why women, particularly mums, may have doubts about joining.

“It took me ages to sign up because I didn’t think I would be physically strong enough,” Janette says.

“However, I bring my own strengths to the team, as I was small enough to fit under the deck to save a Jack Russell terrier at one incident and I can also climb through small windows. Everyone has their different skill sets, and they are all valued here.”

To sponsor Janette and Jasmine, follow the link on the Manly Skywalkers Sky Tower Climb Facebook page.

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