Tonawanda News

Local News

October 9, 2013

Town incident eerily similar to Webster tragedy

Fire call brings back memories of NY tragedy


Tonawanda News — “The chief’s first concern was protecting my members and all the firefighters,” Chatham said.

Chatham said he felt relieved that his men were taken care of when he wasn’t there himself.

“Before last Christmas Eve, no one ever expected anything like this,” Chatham said, referring to the tragedy in Webster, N.Y. on Christmas Eve 2012.

On Dec. 24, 2012, four firefighters were shot, two of them fatally, while responding to a fire in Webster, a suburb of Rochester.

The West Webster Fire Department was called for the report of a structure fire just after 5:35 a.m. The firefighters were ambushed when they arrived to fight the fire by a man with a gun who set the fire and laid in wait to shoot at them.

Lt. Mike Chiapperini, a Webster Police Department lieutenant, who was off-duty and responding as a volunteer firefighter, was killed along with Tomasz Kaczowka, another volunteer firefighter and a 911 dispatcher. Two firefighters, Theodore Scardino and Joseph Hofstetter, were injured in the shooting.

Webster Police identified the shooter as 62-year-old William Spengler, who was found dead near the scene from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Spengler, like Hollywood, had run-ins with police prior to the incident. Spengler was arrested in 1980 for beating and killing his grandmother. 

Police and neighbors said that there had been numerous domestic disturbances over the years involving Hollywood at the Fries Road home.

“In a domestic situation, the fire (departments) wait for the police to give the all clear before fire crews go in,” Chatham said. 

The Brighton Fire Department was the lead fire company for the incident Monday.

Brighton Fire Chief Chris Tracey said that they received the order to stand down while on route to the scene. 

As the home collapsed, firefighters used a ladder truck behind the home to get water on the structure from a safe distance. 

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