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West Hartford Firefighters Race Up Stairs for Lung Association

Annual 'Fight for Air Climb' attracts many firefighters, law enforcement officers, and health care workers.

Three men representing the West Hartford Fire Department competed in the "Fight for Air Climb" in Boston in early February, the only team from Connecticut that participated this year in the American Lung Association's major fundraiser.

On Feb. 2, 2013, retired Battalion Chief Matt Stuart and firefighters Troy Shipley and Ben Coker, wearing full firefighting gear and air packs, climbed the 41 stories of Boston's Mellon Building at One Boston Place. It was the team's third time competing the Boston stair climb.

This year there were about 425 firefighters participating in the event – "almost twice what we had last year," Stuart said. Many health care workers and law enforcement officials, as well are members of the public, also participated.

The West Hartford team raised $375 for the American Lung Association, and Stuart said that although they exceeded their goal, next year they will make an effort to raise even more.

"It's all about raising money for a good cause," Stuart said, but it's also an opportunity to participate in an athletic event at a time of year when there are few other activities. Stuart, an avid cyclist, had a personal record of 9:33 for his 41-floor climb this year, earning third place honors among male firefighters 50 and over. Shipley finished in 9:19 and Coker had a time of 10:24.

The overall fastest time for the Stair Climb was 4:50, achieved by 42-year-old Sean Wolf of Somerville, MA, according to coolrunning.com. However, that was without wearing full firefighting gear.

"The gear we wore, clothing and air pack, weighs about 50 pounds," Stuart said. He trained for the race on a StairMaster, wearing a backpack filled with two 25-pound weights. "The problem is the heat. By the tenth floor you're baking in your gear," Stuart said.

The heat, said Stuart, is an issue active duty firefighters face during the regular course of their jobs. "You have to be in really good shape," he said.

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