Two firefighters were shot dead and two others were wounded Monday in Webster, N.Y., about 12 miles northeast of Rochester, after at least one gunman opened fire as emergency personnel responded to a blaze, officials said.
The incident comes as debate rages in the United States regarding gun control following the Newtown school massacre, which resulted in the death of 20 young children and seven adults.
Webster Police Chief Gerald L. Pickering said at a news conference that the firefighters were “fired upon by one or more shooters” after arriving at the scene at approximately 6 a.m.
Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester said the two wounded firefighters were in “guarded condition.”
The scene of the fire, which continued to burn throughout the morning as it spread to several houses, remained “an active crime scene,” Chief Pickering said, though officials said there was no longer an active shooter.
“The whole strip’s been evacuated,” Michael Damico, a Webster resident, told the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper. “They’re evacuating all the houses and going through them.”
“We’re assisting law enforcement with whatever needs they may have,” said FBI spokeswoman Maureen Dempsey. “We have people on the scene, members of our joint terrorism task force.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a statement Monday morning saying, “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.”