What happens when those who protect us end up being the ones in need of protection or rescue? Early Monday morning, a gunman in Webster, New York took the lives of two firemen in a surprise shooting.
The four firefighters and one off-duty police officer who responded to that house and car blaze were all shot at by 62-year-old William Spengler. He then turned the gun on himself. Police believe Spengler set the fire himself, luring responders to where he was. They also say he has spent time in prison for killing his own grandmother. Earlier today, one hurt firefighter was in guarded condition at an area hospital, the other firefighter was in stable condition. Both are now talking and expected to recover. We have not received an update on the off-duty cop who was injured, whether or not he needed treatment.
Local fire crews are trained to contain an emergency, but Rockford Fire Department Acting District Chief Tracy Renfro says there's no preparation for violence from those they're trying to help.
"That's not a normal situation we encounter for fires. For normal shootings and stabbings, we usually let the police respond first and once they assure the scene is safe, then we will go in." -says Renfro.
Renfro says Rockford's had its problems with attacks on first responders. Luckily, in those rare instances, no one has been hurt.
"There have been two cases where we've had fire trucks shot at, but we've never have a gunshot injury that I'm aware of in my 20 years." -he says.
If there ever was a situation where people were putting Rockford firefighters in danger, Renfro can guess how it would be dealt with.
"We can get on the radio, we can declare emergency traffic, which notifies the police immediately to drop whatever they're doing and come." -he adds.
Renfro adds that every year, around 100 firefighters in the nation are killed while on the job. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, 80 have lost their lives so far in 2012.
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