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Firefighters ambushed responding to WNY blaze

Many updates below. The residents of Lake Road, on a small peninsula at the mouth of Irondequoit Bay, woke up this morning to hell, hell on Christmas Eve. Volunteer firefighters from West Webster and Webster responded to the report of a house fire at 5:45 a.m. On arrival, they were ambushed and four firefighters were shot. Two have died and two are reported in serious condition at a local hospital.

I thought about being shot at, during the 11 years with the East Rochester Volunteer Ambulance. Not so much in my four years with the Alfred Station Fire Company. I’m a worrier so I pick at every worst case scenario until it bleeds.

And, today, my heart is breaking. I knew, in a nodding way, one of the dead firefighters in West Webster and one of the wounded ones. I’ve listened to the scanner tapes that are making the rounds. It’s chilling, to hear a firefighter tell his chief that he may not make it. Thank God, and two civilians, he did.

I’m pretty sure William Spengler was crazy as a bed bug. But I cannot, for the life of me, think of a law that could have kept him from killing someone today. He had no record beyond the murder in 1980. We can’t lock up all the people who might go crazy. And he didn’t need a gun to commit his first murder.

Firefighters don’t die this way. Mostly they die from heart attacks or motor vehicle accidents. Firefighters aren’t supposed to die this way. And no one should be murdered on Christmas Eve.

It’s wrong but I really want the chance to spit on William Spengler’s coffin. It’ll take some deep breaths to restore my Christianity, after the murders in West Webster and those in Newtown. Evil does exist, thus God exists and it is only through him that we can be saved.

UPDATE 14:23 pm: Press conference. Webster Police Chief Pickering – 7 houses destroyed by fire. No access to area yet. Hofstetter in stable condition. Scardino in guarded condition. Shooter is ex-con William Spengler. Served time for killing his grandmother in 1980. Spengler a suicide, gunshot to head. Spengler sister may be missing.

Shooter believed to have been shooting from the berm on the north side of the peninsula. Webster PD officer did exchange gunfire with shooter. Unknown if he hit shooter.

Chief says Spengler, as a convicted felon, not allowed to possess weapons.

Chief Pickering: “We are hoping we don’t find any more bodies.”

FD Chief – Mike Chiapperini was former chief. Came up through Explorers. Tomasz Kaczowka was bunking at fire station. Arrived on scene with squad vehicle. Came up through Explorers.

Lt. Governor Duffy speaking. “Unthinkable” “Unspeakable” (Duffy is former mayor of Rochester and former police chief of Rochester) Duffy praises Chiapperini for volunteering to go to Suffolk County after Hurricane Sandy, on his own time.

DA Sandra Doorley – Spengler served 18 years in prison, until 1998, 8 yrs on parole.
UPDATE 14:16 pm: Audio of scanner traffic is at this link. First call for the fire is midway through first audio file. Shots can be heard in the background at times. First officer on scene does exchange gunfire with shooter. Firefighter Hofstetter, as engine 125, requests ALS for multiple firefighters shot, including himself.
UPDATE 12:25 pm: Press conference by Strong Memorial Hospital. Joseph Hofstetter and Theodore Scardino were seriously injured. Hofstetter has significant pelvis injury. Scardino has a fractured scapula and bruised left lung, and a knee wound. Both men have the bullets still in their bodies. Both are in the ICU. Scardino also has burn injuries to his head.

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Press conference at 11:45:
Several houses have burned as the police search for the shooter or shooters. Residents have been evacuated west, across the outlet bridge, to Irondequoit. Some 33 were moved.

Two West Webster firefighters responded on an engine, and two more arrived in personal vehicles. All four were shot. One man was able to escape and the other three were rescued by a SWAT armored personal carrier. An off-duty sheriff’s deputy Greece police officer was also wounded by shrapnel.

Police chief Pickering is choking up as he talks about one of his lieutenants who was killed, as a volunteer firefighter. Lt. Mike Chiapperini of Webster PD died. He is also a volunteer for West Webster FD. Lifetime firefighter, began as an Explorer, nearly 20 years as a police officer.
UPDATE: Second firefighter fatality was Tomasz Kaczowka. He’s a West Webster firefighter and 911 dispatcher. Facebook page. West Webster firefighters Joseph Hofstetter and Theodore Scardino seriously injured.

Four homes have been destroyed by fire. Four additional homes have been damaged. The police state that the threat has been eliminated. The shooter is believed to be deceased at the scene. Police are stating that the shooter has a gunshot wound.

Webster police chief says that first responding police exchanged gunfire with the shooter and conducted a foot pursuit.

Watch the latest video at

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