Local fire crews mourn shooting of New York firefighters - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Local fire crews mourn shooting of New York firefighters

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GRAND BLANC (WJRT) -

(12/24/12) - Two firefighters are dead and two others hurt, after a New York man ambushes them with gunfire, as they responded to a fire he set to lure them in.

It happened early Monday in the town of Webster, just outside of Rochester, New York. The man, identified as William Spengler, is an ex-con.

Investigators say he served more than 17 years in prison for beating his 92-year-old grandmother to death in 1980. He's been free on parole since then, living a quiet life.

Authorities say Spengler set a car and house on fire and the flames spread to several others. When fire crews arrived, they were met with gunfire, but it's unclear what prompted the attack.

The gunman then took his own life. The two wounded firefighters remain hospitalized, expected to recover.     

Fire crews in Mid-Michigan are pausing to mourn the death of those New York state firefighters.

"It's kind of a chief's nightmare," said Grand Blanc Fire Chief James Harmes.

"Every time we see something on the news, fire fighters hurt, we all take it to heart, take it personally," said Lt. Chris Hyde of the Grand Blanc Fire Department.

"It's kind of a dark day for the fire service when something like this happens," said Grand Blanc Firefighter Jeremy Oxford.

Harmes says when they respond to a fire, they're usually concentrating on getting people out alive, down power lines and other dangers.

"Never dreamed we'd have to worry about our backsides because we're getting shot at from the front side, we never realized anything like this would ever happen," he said.

It doesn't matter that it didn't happen in Michigan - a tragedy like this impacts firefighters across the nation.

"It's just unfortunate it happened today of all the days, why'd it have to happen the 24th of December, it happened at a time people are supposed to be in fabulous, blessing type moods," Harmes said.

And this is something that will weigh on their minds for a while.

"It's going to affect us for a long long time, when you see something like this we'll be thinking about it for a long long time and it's unfortunate," Harmes said.

Chief Harmes says they will discuss this at the station and be prepared, just in case the worst happens here at home.

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