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Fraternity of firefighters devastated over NY shootings

Published On: Dec 24 2012 06:46:16 PM CST   Updated On: Dec 24 2012 08:32:29 PM CST
Webster NY firefighter shooting
SPOKANE, Wash. -

A man convicted of killing his grandmother decades ago ambushed firefighters on Monday, fatally shooting two of them as they arrived to battle a blaze in upstate New York, police said.

Two other firefighters were wounded in the attack in the Rochester-area town of Webster. A police officer from the nearby town of Greece suffered minor shrapnel wounds when his vehicle was hit by gunfire.

The news of those tragic deaths traveled fast through the fraternity of firefighters across the nation. For some firefighters in Spokane it's an event that hits closer to home than others.

Those firefighters lost this morning, and the ones still fighting for their lives, are definitely on the minds of crews in Spokane. The threat of a shooting like this is known in the firefighter community but rarely is it a reality.

There is never a hesitation when firefighters rush to put themselves in harm's way. It's their job to get others out of danger, and never is it a thought those in danger would be shooting at them.

"It appears to have been staged to kill firefighters and that's extremely disturbing for our entire firefighting community," Spokane Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said.

For Schaeffer it brings back a nightmare from eight years ago.

"Having lived through an incident like that with friends that you know, it does hit home."

A similar situation happened when Schaeffer was a firefighter in Kansas City, Mo. In 2004.

His friend and colleague was shot simply because she was one of the first medics on-scene at a house fire.

"Multiple shots were fired. Firefighters went in, they were able to rescue her and grab her. She went from being the paramedic responsible for overall patient care to being the patient," Schaeffer said.

His friend recovered from her injuries while two others in New York Monday morning did not.

"When they go to work, or respond to an incident, there is something in the back of their head that they're aware of that they might not come home," Schaeffer said.

Schaeffer said the firefighters killed this morning were volunteers; he said that means their families will not get a pension like other firefighters. He added that he expects the Spokane Fire Department will be collecting money for those families soon.