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First responders react to firefighter shootings

Posted at 10:11 PM, Dec 24, 2012
and last updated 2012-12-24 23:44:29-05

WEBSTER, N.Y. (WTVR) - It's not uncommon to hear crackling and popping noises when firefighters get on scene, but never the crack of a sniper rifle.

Four New York firefighters were shot in a fire where seven houses burned to the ground on the morning of Christmas Eve by an elderly man who killed his grandmother in 1981.  Two of them were killed.

"It does appear it was a trap for first responders," a police officer said.

"It's a huge sense of sadness across the public safety community," a local firefighter said.

Although they are far away in distance, Central Virginia first responders say they want to help.  "You know we are coming to your place to help.  That's what we do," a first responder said.  "To hear firefighters were killed like this is absolutely heartbreaking."

Chief Operating Officer for the Richmond Ambulance Authority, Rob Lawrence, went over the procedures that keep first responders in place.  "We wait for our police counterparts to give us the all safe," he said.  "Airing on the side of safety is key.  We practice it everyday.  Now, it's not guaranteed, but it's the best we can do."

Back in Webster, N.Y., neighbors were left in their burning homes until the swat team could evacuate them. 

Families and a community are in grief.  It's not the way they wanted to spend the holidays.

"Our hearts go out to them," a local firefighter said.  "This is a Christmas these families won't forget for all the wrong reasons."

According to Webster, N.Y. police, the suspect was identified as 62-year-old William Spangler, who has a history of mental health issues.