Community Mourns Two of Webster's Bravest

December 25, 2012 Updated Dec 25, 2012 at 12:47 AM EDT

By Rachel Elzufon

...
December 25, 2012 Updated Dec 25, 2012 at 12:47 AM EDT


Webster, NY (WKBW) - A town pulls together on Christmas Eve to remember two firefighters, ambushed while trying to protect their community.

The fire that had engulfed seven homes earlier -- and used to lure firefighters -- has been put out.

While investigators were trying to track down a motive, the community is spending Christmas Eve, remembering lives lost.

At a vigil, Barbara Hosenfeld, a long time Webster resident, said, "These guys are everybody's heroes. You know when that alarm sounds they all go, it could be you, and it could be me."

Candles were placed at a vigil, in an area stricken so suddenly with tremendous loss.

Mike Chiapperini and Thomasz Kaczowka, volunteer firefighters in the Town of Webster, died when responding to Monday morning's fire.

Chiapperini was also a member of the Webster Police Department. He was a true hero, who traveled to Suffolk County to help Hurricane Sandy victims. He had just been named firefighter of the year.

Kaczowka was a 9-1-1 dispatcher.

The shooting left three first responders wounded. Theodore Scardino was shot twice, sustaining lung damage.

Joseph Hofstetter was shot in the pelvis.

Trauma Surgeon with University of Rochester Medical Center said, "The missile is actually embedded in one of his spine bones. So that most likely is not removed and will never be removed."

Off-duty Greece police officer John Ritter also sustained minor injuries when shrapnel hit him. Ritter was passing by and stopped to help.

Police have listed 62-year-old William Spengler as the suspect.

Officers believe Spengler set his house and a car on fire to lure firefighters -- then barricaded himself while shooting at first responders, before taking his own life.

The death toll could climb.

Police still have not accounted for Spengler's sister. Her last known address was the suspect's home.

With a shooter on the loose, firefighters were forced to watch the fire engulf six other homes. Armored vehicles helped evacuate more than 30 people.

Police still cannot be sure that everyone made it out. They will continue to investigate in the morning, while the community also asks why did this happen -- and right before the holidays.

A lot of support is coming in from fellow first responders. Three companies are assisting the West Webster Fire Department, to give firefighters time to cope, grieve and attend Monday evening's vigil.

Police are expected to update with more details on Tuesday.