US firefighters gunned down responding to blaze

US firefighters gunned down responding to blaze

US firefighters gunned down responding to blaze

Updated 25 December 2012, 12:58 AEST

Two volunteer firefighters in the United States have been shot dead and two others injured while responding to an emergency call in New York state.

Two volunteer firefighters in the United States have been shot dead and two others injured while responding to an emergency call in New York state.

A convicted felon lured them to the blaze which police said he apparently set as a trap in the town of Webster, east of Rochester, on the shores of Lake Ontario.

The 62-year-old shooter, who was found guilty of manslaughter and jailed for 17 years for his grandmother's death in 1980, then fatally shot himself.

"It does appear that it was a trap that was set for first responders, but causative reasons we don't have at this time," said Webster police chief Gerald Pickering.

"These people get up in the middle of the night to put out fires, they don't expect to be shot and killed.

"We are a safe community, a tragedy like this is just horrendous."

The firefighters were shot as they approached the scene of the blaze - a car and a house engulfed in a fire believed to have been set by the shooter, identified as William Spengler.

"Four of the firefighters were shot. Two are deceased, two were transported to area hospitals," Mr Pickering said.

The two injured men were in guarded condition and were expected to recover.

An off-duty police officer who responded was also shot and wounded.

'I am shot'

One of the injured firefighters, all volunteers in the small suburb of Rochester, was able to escape and call for help.

His call was recorded and has been broadcast on local television:

"We are being shot at. Multiple firemen down. Multiple firemen are shot. I am shot.

"I think he is using an assault rifle. We have multiple firemen down. Working fire."

A security cordon was put up around the scene and residents were evacuated.

Seven homes were destroyed in the blaze as the shooting thwarted initial efforts to douse the flames.

Mr Pickering said emergency personnel had not yet been able to search the torched homes for possible additional victims.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo called the incident a "horrific shooting" and offered his condolences to the families of the victims.

"New York's first responders are true heroes as they, time and again, selflessly rush toward danger in order to keep our families and communities safe," Mr Cuomo said in a statement.

"We, as the community of New York, mourn their loss as now two more families must spend the holidays without their loved ones."