Shelton firefighter climbs and climbs and climbs for charity

A Shelton volunteer firefighter was honored for being the oldest firefighter to participate in the American Lung Association’s Air Climb inside the stairway of a New Haven skyscraper.

Donald Tagg, 56, competed in the fourth annual Fight for Air Climb charity event on Feb. 28. The White Hills Fire Company member and fire commissioner went up 561 stairs in what is known as a “vertical road race.”

“I walked up at a steady pace,” he said of the first time he participated in the stair climb.

For his accomplishment, Tagg was presented with the “Iron Man” award by Air Climb organizers.

He had trained for the event indoors at the White Hills firehouse and outdoors at the Shelton High football field stands.

Tagg raised $300 for the American Lung Association in the process, donated by friends and other sponsors through his Facebook page.

Other Shelton participants

He was joined by two other White Hills firefighters in the event — brothers Danny and Kevin McCue. They were part of a large contingent of Connecticut firefighters at the stair climb.

All the Shelton firefighters helped raise money to boost lung disease research and fight lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Climbing is helpful skill

Tagg said being able to climb many flights of stairs is a helpful skill to have as a firefighter, who can be called upon to do just that in an emergency.

He noted that Shelton has a few taller buildings, such as the 17-story Renaissance condo building and nearby Scinto corporate towers that are up to 10 stories in height.

“When you have to carry a pack up all those stairs, you need to be ready,” he said of trekking with firefighting gear to an upper-floor emergency scene.

Staying in shape

Tagg tries to stay in shape, participating in yoga and jogging regularly. He said a fitness program set up by the Shelton Fire Department at the V-Fitness facility at the Sports Center has been very helpful.

He signed up for the training about a year ago with Michelle Collings, V-Fitness owner and trainer.

Tagg complimented the fire department for its ongoing commitment to fitness. Deputy Chief Tim Hongo serves as the department’s health and safety officer.


Tagg became a firefighter about 14 years ago. He’d always considered signing up, then was motivated to follow through on the idea by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“If I’m going to do it, I should do it now,” he decided at the time.

He is a military veteran and was a Boy Scout leader, where he’d seen many Scouts go on to become firefighters. He’s lived in Shelton since elementary school.

Tagg, who works as a special education teacher at a private school in Easton, said he hopes more local firefighters will participate in the stair climb next year. He expects to participate again.

“There’s a lot of camaraderie among firefighters there,” Tagg said.