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Crime

New York firefighters shot dead while responding to fire

Two firefighters have been shot dead in New York State on Monday as they were responding to a fire. It comes as debate rages in the United States about gun control, following the recent school massacre.

A fire burns on Lake Road after a suspect shot four firefighters responding to the blaze in Webster, New York, December 24, 2012. At least two upstate New York firefighters were shot and killed and two wounded on Monday at the scene of an early morning house fire in a suburb of Rochester, according to local news reports. REUTERS/WHEC/Christine VanTimmeren/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW) NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS

Tod von zwei Feuerwehrmännern in New York

The incident occurred in Webster, a suburb of the city of Rochester, about 300 miles (500 kilometers) north-west of New York City.

The gunman, identified by police as 62-year-old William Spengler, fatally shot two firefighters and wounded two others as they arrived at the scene of an early morning blaze. After firing on the first responders, Spengler fatally shot himself in the head.

"The responding firefighters, when they pulled up at the scene, were fired upon by one or more shooters," local police chief Gerald Pickering told a press conference.

"Four of the firefighters were shot. Two are deceased, two were transported to area hospitals... it's still an active crime scene."

Police said that Spengler set the blaze to lure firefighters to the scene.

"It does appear that a trap was set for our first responders," said Pickering.

Special police tactical units responded to rescue the injured and move residents away from the fire, which is believed to have spread to a number of buildings in the area.

Spengler was previously found guilty of manslaughter and jailed 17 years for the death of his grandmother in 1980, police said.

The incident comes just 10 days after a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, left 26 dead, including 20 children. The incident has reignited a heated debate in the United States over the country's gun laws.

jr/mz (AFP, dpa)