Another Potential Danger For Firefighters

Credit: WROC

Credit: WROC

It's a story that's caught national concern, firefighters in Webster, New York race out to a fire.

They're met with sniper fire.

Omaha firefighters say something like that is the last item on their long list of concerns.

When volunteer firefighters arrived on the scene in Webster, New York just outside Rochester, they were met with gunfire.

In all four firefighters were shot ...two were killed.

The suspected gunman, 62-year-old William Spengler also exchanged fire with police before turning the gun on himself.

"It appears it was a trap," Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering said."

Omaha Fire Captain Curt Ecklebe has to quickly formulate a plan when arriving at a fire.

"That's got to be the last thing on anybody's list is oh gosh check this box here is there a guy shooting at us," he said. "It's something that we really don't think about."

"You're trying to contemplate and one of those things doesn't need to be where could he be shooting from? Is there a bell tower over here? Is there a grassy knoll over here? Is there a library window?"

Ecklebe says Omaha firefighters sometimes meet some resistance.

"On one occasion, we had two firefighters climb a ladder to a second story window and they guy opened the window up and put a gun in their face," Ecklebe said. "He started a fire in his apartment, had mental health issues. He just did not want us in there, so they said we'll be seeing you later and climbed right back down the ladder and then we got the police involved."

Omaha police are usually on location with firefighters, but police mainly deal with traffic control.

Captain Ecklebe doesn't see that changing because of what happened in New York state.

"We just need to do our job, they need to do theirs and hopefully we don't get to the point where their job is going in with us with assault rifles to make sure things are clear. It just wouldn't work real well," he said.

The only fairly recent incident where someone was set up and killed while responding to a distress call in Omaha was in 1970.

That's when Omaha police officer Larry Minard was killed by a booby trapped briefcase when responding to a call.

Two men were charged with first degree murder in that case and are serving life sentences in prison.


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