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Shooting of Rochester Firefighters recalls 2009 incident in Vegas

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Updated: 12/24/2012 6:17 pm


LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3) -- Two firefighters near Rochester, New York are dead and two others are in the hospital tonight after being ambushed and shot. Investigators in west Webster say four firefighters responded to reports of a house and car on fire early this morning.

Police believe the fires were set as a trap for first responders. One of the men was able to escape after being shot. A swat team in an armored vehicle retrieved the other three, but two firefighters were dead by the time the swat team arrived.

Police say the shooter was 62-year-old William Spengler, who spent 17 years in prison after being convicted of murdering his grandmother in 1981.

Spengler died of a self-inflicted gunshot after police officers arrived and began to engage

At this time, a sister of Spengler's is unaccounted for. Her last known address was at the house firefighters were responding to. One of the two injured firemen is still in guarded condition at an area hospital. A second injured fireman is in stable condition.

Attacks on firefighters like the one in Rochester are not unheard of in southern Nevada. Las Vegas Fire & Rescue Public Information Officer Tim Szymanski says the incident reminds him of the call on Sept. 2, 2009 just north of the U.S. 95 and east of I-15.

“Just like in New York, we could not go into that area for at least an hour that means that the fire burned freely for about an hour.”

It burned freely because, moments after firefighters arrived at the scene, they heard gunshots. A man, later identified as Bryan Benjamin Hanasz, came around the house, shooting and hitting engine 3 and 203. One shot broke the rear window where two firefighters usually sit.

As we turned, he just happened to be straight across from us” Captain Al Hurtado told News 3 later that day. “He was straight across from us aiming a weapon at us.”

“The glass shattered. I could see the projectile going through the window,” said firefighter Jujuan Robinson.

None of the Las Vegas firefighters were injured that day, but the gunman was killed in a shootout with police.

“This is something we don't expect,” said Szymanski. “We are there to help people. To help save lives.”

But firefighters can't ignore it. Whether it was three years ago in Las Vegas or just happened in New York, these incidents are a sober reminder of how dangerous a firefighter’s job can be.

“It's definitely going to send shockwaves throughout the fire service,” Szymanski said. “[There] probably will be some more protocol changes. I think there will be a heightened awareness.”

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