Weekly Feature

2013-10-09 / Editorial

Tragedy in Webster may have saved firefighters

Bee Editorial

A December 2012 tragedy near Rochester during which firefighters were killed by a gunman inside a burning home prompted Town of Tonawanda police to prevent our own firefighters from entering a potentially dangerous scene Monday morning on Fries Road.

It is in rare cases that firefighters are told to stand down from their duties to extinguish a fire and let a structure burn, but such was the case Monday when fire responders arrived at a Fries Road home that was consumed in flames. While we expect our first responders to place themselves in dangerous situations to protect and save others, this is one case were we can support their reason for allowing a home to burn when it possibly had a dangerous individual inside.

Town of Tonawanda police instructed firefighters to stay away from the area near 163 Fries Road after receiving reports that there was a male inside the home who had a gun.

Instead, fire crews were told to station themselves nearby and make sure that the fire didn’t spread to neighboring homes while the town’s SWAT team circled the perimeter to see if the suspect was still in the area.

Both Police Lt. Nick Bado and Brighton Fire Company Chief Chris Tracey reminded The Bee of the incident last year in Webster, N.Y., a Rochester suburb, during which a gunman in a burning home ambushed first responders before killing himself.

Since police believe that Joe Hollywood was inside the home and armed with a gun, and because he had a lengthy arrest record in the town, police didn’t want to take any chances that would put the firefighters in harm’s way.

In addition to keeping the fire crews at bay, residents were advised to stay in their homes and the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District was notified to initiate lockdown mode, a procedure used to prevent anyone from entering or exiting the school buildings. The lockdown, Bado said, was necessary because police hadn’t located Hollywood yet.

We find it amazing that a domestic violence call morphed into an arson, unconfirmed suicide and a history/safety lesson for firefighters.

We also find the timing of this fire to be a little ironic given that this fire was intentionally set during Fire Prevention Week, a time when individuals are reminded of ways they can protect their homes and other dwellings from fire.

We hope that others will exercise their abilities to prevent fires and that we don’t see another case of arson in the town. Again, kudos to the Town of Tonawanda Police Department for taking action to make sure all innocent bystanders were safe.

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