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West Webster firefighters laid to rest

Nearly 7,000 fire and police attend the two weekend funerals

The Toronto Star

WEBSTER, N.Y. — Mike Ogle knows all too well the anguish of attending a firefighter’s funeral, but he said the first of two services for a pair of volunteer firefighters gunned down on Christmas Eve was different.

“It’s always an emotional event,” said Ogle, an executive officer with the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association. “This was compounded by the way it happened . . . It’s disgusting.”

Nearly 100 Toronto firefighters and five Toronto police officers descended on Webster, N.Y., on Sunday, alongside some 6,000 to 7,000 uniformed fire and police from across North America for the first of two funerals.

Sunday’s service was held in a local high school, and marked the death of volunteer firefighter and police Lieut. Mike Chiapperini, 43, who was shot dead while attending an emergency call on Christmas Eve.

A second funeral will be held Monday for Tomasz Kaczowka, 19, a 911 dispatcher and volunteer firefighter who joined the fire department one year earlier.

Groups of first responders left Toronto on the weekend to pay their respects. Some were only able to attend Sunday’s service, and are due back in Toronto fire halls on Monday, said Toronto Fire Capt. Mike Strapko.

“It’s horrible,” he said. “It’s dangerous enough when you’re dealing with a house fire, or any kind of fire, and responding to emergencies — and for something like this to happen, it hurts. It really does.”

Three others were wounded in the incident, including firefighters Joseph Hofstetter and Theodore Scardino, both of whom are recovering in a Rochester Hospital.

Police believe William Spengler, 62, went on a rampage, killing the men after setting fire to a car, which spread to his home and six other houses. He then took his own life.

As a convicted felon, Spengler couldn’t legally own any weapons. He was released from prison in 1998 after murdering his grandmother with a hammer in 1980.

His former neighbour, Dawn M. Nguyen, 24, of Greece, N.Y., has been charged for allegedly purchasing the guns for Spengler.

Copyright 2012 Toronto Star Newspapers Limited