CHEEKTOWAGA (WKBW) Dozens of local volunteer firefighters gathered in Cheektowaga Saturday morning to board buses bound for Webster, and the wakes of two of their own.
"It really means something to support them, their family, their fellow firefighters during this time. Because it is something we would need. Everybody needs to keep together, to support each other, because we are one big family," Chief Alan Weiberg of the Sloan Fire Department said.
Most never knew Mike Chiapperini or Tomasz Kaczowka, the two fallen firefighters. But as fellow firefighters, they felt the need to pay their final respects, and do it as a group.
"Unfortunately we do this more often than we would like to, but this is a very close community of firefighters around Erie County," William Blarr, the President of the Marilla Fire Company said. "It is a difficult time and I think when we get together we form strength and bonds together."
Chiapperini and Kaczowka were killed on Christmas Eve, after William Spengler set his home on fire and shot at first responders at they arrived.
"It's one of the worst things we could probably imagine to run into," Blarr said.
"It's so close to home, I think that's what makes it so much harder to deal with," Weiberg added.
Firefighters now remember the two men they call heroes, while trying to comprehend a new risk they face when trying to save lives and property.
"Those are added risks that are going to weigh heavily on a lot of folks, but the reality is, just like those injured or killed in this incident, it would never stop us from doing our job," Tiger Schmittendorf of the Erie County Department of Emergency Services said.
Funeral services for Chiapperini will be held Sunday, a funeral for Kaczowka will be held on Monday.