WEBSTER, N.Y. — A gunman ambushed four volunteer firefighters responding to an intense pre-dawn house fire Monday morning outside Rochester, N.Y., killing two and ending up dead himself, authorities said. Police used an armored vehicle to evacuate more than 30 nearby residents.
The gunman fired at the firefighters when they arrived shortly after 5:30 a.m. at the blaze near the Lake Ontario shore in Webster, town Police Chief Gerald Pickering said. The first Webster police officer who arrived chased the suspect and exchanged gunfire with him, authorities said.
"It does appear it was a trap" for the first responders to the fire, Pickering said at a news conference.
Authorities didn't say how the gunman died or whether anyone might have died in the fire itself.
One of the dead firefighters was also a town police lieutenant; it wasn't clear whether he returned fire. An off-duty police officer who was driving by was injured by shrapnel, Pickering said.
"These people get up in the middle of the night to go put out fires; they don't expect to be shot and killed," Pickering said.
The fire started in one home and spread to two others and a car, officials said. The gunfire initially kept firefighters from battling the blazes. Police say four homes were destroyed and four damaged.
The West Webster Fire District learned of the fire early Monday after a report of a car and house on fire on Lake Road, on a narrow peninsula where Irondequoit Bay meets Lake Ontario, Monroe County Sheriff Patrick O'Flynn said.
The fire appeared from a distance as a pulsating ball of flame glowing against the early morning sky, flames licking into treetops and reflecting on the water, with huge bursts of smoke billowing away in a brisk wind.