Pittsfield fire officials say an ambush is tough to plan for

Wednesday December 26, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- While the ambush and slaying of two firefighters in New York on Christmas Eve will likely generate significant discussion, Pittsfield fire officials said, such a bizarre event would be difficult to pre-empt.

On Monday, a 62-year-old man set fire to the home he lived in and then shot and killed two approaching firefighters and injured two others. The man, identified as William Spengler, would eventually shoot himself.

Pittsfield Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski said that the developments in Webster will be followed to identify any possible safety improvements. He also said that proactive steps are routinely taken to ensure the safety of first responders.

"Anytime someone dies in the line of duty it will be a line of discussion," Czerwinski said.

However, he added that it's unlikely any local policy changes will be needed because it was such a rare event.

There have been other attacks on first responders attending to emergency scenarios, and firefighters are trained to be prepared, Pittsfield Fire Deputy Michael Polidoro said.

Polidoro referenced the bombing of an abortion clinic in 2000, which included "secondary devices" aimed at hurting responders. Firefighters are trained to stay alert of any suspiciously instigated fires.

"In those types of [scenarios], if it is really a red flag and intentionally set, that should raise heightened awareness about what they are being drawn into," Polidoro said.

"It's nothing new to us, and it's just hitting home because it's a specific incident with fire and the intent is to draw personnel," he said.

Even though what happened was an anomaly, Polidoro said it's unlikely to be forgotten by firefighters.

"When they are responding, [a shooting] is not one of the top things that are considered," Polidoro said. "Now, it's definitely going to be on their minds. It's going to be on any responder's mind."


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