WEBSTER — A year after two volunteer firefighters were killed in an ambush by a sniper who had set his house ablaze near Rochester, families and firefighters will finally be able to tap the more than $900,000 in charitable donations received in the aftermath of the Christmas Eve attack.
Due to its tax-exempt status, the fire department was limited in its ability to distribute the donations directly to the victims and families. New legislation passed specifically for the situation will allow the department to act as a conduit to disburse the funds.
“The passage of this legislation in time for the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, and in time for the holidays, was simply the right thing to do,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, who was instrumental in pushing the measure through Congress. “Now that this chapter has concluded, it is our duty to remember the courageous sacrifice of the West Webster firefighters and the everyday heroes just like them who volunteer to put themselves in danger for the protection of their friends and neighbors.”
The West Webster Fire District dedicated its Fallen Firefighters Memorial on Sunday and will conduct a candlelight vigil at 6 a.m. Tuesday, Christmas Eve, hosted by members of the volunteer fire department and emergency services members who responded to the shooting.
The families of the victims have requested privacy for the vigil, but the public is invited to view the memorial that morning.
William Spengler Jr. started the shooting rampage outside his lakeside home. Firefighters Michael Chiapperini, 43, and Tomasz Kaczowka, 19, were killed and two other members of the West Webster Fire Department were wounded when the gunman opened fire. Chiapperini was also a lieutenant with the Webster Police Department.
Joseph Hofstetter rejoined his Rochester Fire Department crew in July, more than six months after being shot along with his fellow West Webster volunteers. Volunteer firefighter Ted Scardino also survived the shooting.
Authorities said Spengler had set fire to his car and home before attacking the firefighters. After a shootout with police, Spengler killed himself. In a suicide note, he wrote of a plan to destroy his neighborhood and “do what I like doing best, killing people.”