Eastern Iowa firefighters react to New York firefighter deaths - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Eastern Iowa firefighters react to New York firefighter deaths


Local firefighters say they were shocked to hear the news that two firefighters are dead, two others are in the hospital following a shooting at the scene of a fire in New York. Investigators say they were ambushed and shot while responding to that fire this morning. It happened in West Webster, New York-- a suburb of Rochester.

Fire departments train to deal with dangerous situations, but they don't expect to see a gunman at a house fire.

When members of the North Liberty Fire Department learned New York firefighters were shot and killed while working, they couldn't believe it.

"Our mantra is to help people," said Chris Kochanny, Captain of Public Education. "To hear that those guys were going in to do something that they're trained to do and then to end up victims themselves, it was pretty disheartening."

North Liberty firefighters, along with many others in Iowa, are volunteers---just like the ones killed outside Rochester.

"We leave our dinner tables," said Kochanny.  "We leave our birthday parties. We leave work and we respond when the citizens of North Liberty need help."

"We do this out of the goodness of our heart," said Bill Schmooke, Assistant Fire Chief.

Firefighters train for dangerous situations. They expect possible traps in meth labs, or even a weapon when they're responding to difficult medical calls.

"The heightened sense of awareness is a little bit higher in situations like that," said Schmooke.

But when they're going to a residential house fire, it's just not something they're thinking about.

"It's a really quick size up of what's going on," said Schmooke. "'Where the fire's at, if anybody needs to be rescued, where is the nearest fire hydrant? How am I going to position my trucks?' and things like that. You're rarely think that someone's going to be shooting at you."

With what happened in New York, the firefighters wonder if they need to start expecting gunmen on more calls.

Cedar Rapids firefighter Greg Buelow said his department once had a situation where there was a shooter near a house fire. However, the two 911 calls were separate incidents and no firefighters or police officers were hurt.

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