Baldwinsville On Dec. 24, tragedy struck. Four volunteer firefighters were shot while responding to a fire in Webster, a suburb of Rochester. The gunman, William Spengler, shot and killed Webster Police Lt. Mike Chiapperini, 43, and Tomasz Kaczowka, 19, in addition to seriously injuring Joseph Hofsetter and Theodore Scardino before taking his own life.
This tragedy sent shock waves through an already horrified nation still grieving from the loss in Newtown, Ct. Rather than giving in to despair, however, communities have rallied in support of the West Webster Fire Department including greater Baldwinsville.
On Saturday, Dec. 29, the Baldwinsville Volunteer Fire Company held a boot drive raising more than $5,000, which will be given to the families of Chiapperini, Kaczowka, Hofsetter and Scardino. According to BVFC Chief Tom Perkins, the company was acting on a request through the State Fire and Mutual Aid System to help the families of those killed and injured in this “senseless tragedy.”
“[The drive] was an important cause to us in Baldwinsville because the fire service is a brotherhood, we all feel the pain when a firefighter is killed or injured,” Perkins said. “We accept the fact that sometimes firefighters die in the line of duty. What we don't accept is that a firefighter should die the way these brothers did.”
Under the direction of Deputy Chief Tony McIntyre, several boot drop locations were established throughout greater Baldwinsville. The response was overwhelming, Perkins said.
“I think that when people think about what we do, we are supposed to be the good guys, and the West Webster firefighters were just going about their business, something they do every day, and to be gunned down just is tragic,” Perkins said.
Other volunteers had the West Webster Fire Department in their hearts, too. Mike Zimmerman, Mike Evans, Ryan McNeil and Drew Gilbert, members of the Belgium-Cold Springs Fire District, attended services on Dec. 29 for the fallen volunteers in Rochester.