Niagara Gazette

Local News

December 24, 2012

Police say gunman set 'trap' for firefighters

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — The West Webster Fire District learned of the fire early Monday after a report of a car and house on fire on Lake Road, on a narrow peninsula where Irondequoit Bay meets Lake Ontario, Monroe County Sheriff Patrick O'Flynn said.

The fire appeared from a distance as a pulsating ball of flame glowing against the early morning sky, flames licking into treetops and reflecting on the water, with huge bursts of smoke billowing away in a brisk wind.

Two of the firefighters arrived on a fire engine and two in their own vehicles, Pickering said. After Spengler fired, one of the wounded men managed to flee, but the other three couldn't because of flying gunfire.

A police armored vehicle was used to recover two of the men, and eventually it evacuated 33 people from nearby homes, the police chief said. The gunfire initially kept firefighters from battling the blazes.

"These people get up in the middle of the night to go put out fires; they don't expect to be shot and killed," Pickering said.

The dead men were identified as Police Lt. Michael Chiapperini, 43, the Webster Police Department's public information officer; and Tomasz Kaczowka, also a 911 dispatcher, whose age was not released.

Pickering described Chiapperini as a "lifetime firefighter" with nearly 20 years with the department, and called Kaczowka a "tremendous young man."

The two wounded firefighters, Joseph Hofsetter and Theodore Scardino, were in guarded condition in the intensive care unit at Strong Memorial Hospital, authorities said. Both were awake and alert and are expected to recover.

Hofsetter, also a full-timer with the Rochester Fire Department, was hit once in the pelvis, and the bullet lodged in his spine, authorities said. Scardino was hit in the chest and knee.

Monday's shooting and fires were in a neighborhood of seasonal and year-round homes set close together across the road from the lakeshore. The area is popular with recreational boaters but is normally quiet this time of year.

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