Webster Police Lt. Mike Chiapperini was one of two volunteer firefighters slain Monday. Chiapperini, seen here in April 2011, was also the police department's public information officer.(Photo: Tina Yee, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle)
Firefighters and paramedics often work in hostile situations, but
they rarely encounter a planned ambush like the fusillade of bullets
that killed two New York firefighters and wounded two others.
like what happened - there's really no preparation for it," says Jim
McTiernan, a captain with the Rochester Fire Department who is president
of the International Union of Fire Fighters Local 1071 in Rochester,
N.Y., which represents one of the injured men. "Gun violence is somewhat
Early Monday morning, William Spengler Jr., 62, set fire
to his house and a car, hid behind a berm with a Bushmaster .223 rifle,
a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun and a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol
and fired on the first responders from West Webster, N.Y., a Rochester
suburb. As firefighters ran for cover and evacuated the neighborhood,
the fire spread to six other houses and Spengler fatally shot himself,
Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering said.
emergency medical technicians encounter combative people who might
assault them, and firefighters douse fires set by arsonists in
booby-trapped homes, but instances of firefighters shot and killed while
responding to a fire or other emergency incident are rare.
"There are a lot of situations where there is the potential for real trouble if you're not careful," McTiernan says.
sniper killed firefighter Ryan Hummert, 22, and wounded two police
officers in 2008 as they responded to a pickup and house fire in
Maplewood, a St. Louis suburb. Later that year, a carjacker shot and
killed off-duty St. Louis firefighter Leonard Riggins, who saw a car
wreck and stopped to help, not knowing that the armed carjacker had
crashed the car.
Roswell, N.M., Fire Chief Louis Jones, 46, died
in March 2002 after responding to a house fire. As Jones approached the
house, a man began firing, hitting Jones in the head and killing a
paramedic. The shooter, a man with a history of mental illness, had set
the fire, killed a neighbor, shot the neighbor's 3-year-old son and
taken a 5-year-old child hostage before killing himself, according to a
report from the Roswell Fire Department.