Tonawanda News

December 29, 2012

A brotherhood of support

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — When tragedy struck in Webster Monday with the merciless shooting that left two firefighters dead, members of North Tonawanda’s Sweeney Hose Fire Co. immediately began planning a trip to show their support for their fallen colleagues.

“As firefighters, we are trained together to be there for one another,” Mike Mulvaugh, of Sweeney Hose, said. “You want to show support for the ones who passed.”

When he heard the news that two men had been shot and killed at the scene of a fire in a suburb of Rochester, Mulvaugh called the president of Sweeney Hose, Joseph Lavey, to discuss what they could do. Both felt the need to pay their respects to the victims and offer support to the families and firefighters who are grieving.

And although they often make an effort to pay respect for fallen firefighters, this incident affected them differently.

“It wasn’t something that was an accident, it wasn’t a training exercise,” Mulvaugh said. “It was something that one person caused that no one had any control over.”

The loss also hit close to home for Mulvaugh, as he has family members from Webster.

“Even though it is an hour-and-a-half away, I have been there many times, and it’s like home,” Mulvaugh said.

Mulvaugh and Lavey began planning a NT-wide trip for firefighters to attend one of the victim’s funerals.

Lavey said he contacted all six fire departments in NT and invited them to come to Webster for Lt. Michael Chiapperini’s funeral Sunday. Lavey and Mulvaugh also put the trip on Niagara County Fire Wire’s website to get the word out. 

“I contacted Fire Chief John Lapham, and he is on board and is coming with us,” Lavey said.

And although many firefighters had other commitments due to the holiday season, Lavey said about 20 firefighters, from both volunteer companies and the city, are set to make the trip.

Lavey contacted bus company Bedore Tours, of Tonawanda, to rent a bus for Sunday.

“They were actually the first company I called, and they said they were going to give it to us for free,” Lavey said.

And Mulvaugh also communicated with the West Webster Fire Department.

“I talked to one of the assistant chiefs,” Mulvaugh said. “I told him we wanted to come out, and I could tell he was a little choken up by it. They would have done the same thing for us.”

Chiapperini, 43, and Tomasz Kaczowka, 19, were killed Monday when William Spengler, 62, fired bullets at authorities after he lured them to his home by setting it and his car on fire.

Chiapperini was also the public information officer for the police department and was survived by his wife, two daughters and son. 

Tomasz Kaczowka, 19, was also a 911 dispatcher for Monroe County.

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150