Printed on: December 27, 2012

Two N.Y. firefighters who survived ambush thankful

By George M. Walsh
Associated Press

Two firefighters wounded by a gunman who set his upstate New York house ablaze and killed two of their colleagues in an ambush with weapons he wasn't allowed to own were on the mend Wednesday and said they were thankful for the support they've received.

Investigators, meanwhile, traced the gunman's weapons and tried to confirm a body found in his destroyed house was his sister's.

West Webster volunteer firefighters Joseph Hofstetter and Theodore Scardino, who had been in guarded condition, were being up-

graded to satisfactory condition Wednesday at Rochester's Strong Memorial Hospital, which released a statement from them saying they were "humbled and a bit overwhelmed by the outpouring

of well wishes for us and our families."

The firefighters said their "thoughts and prayers" were with the families of colleagues Michael Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka, killed by William Spengler Jr., a convicted felon barred from having guns.

Authorities said Spengler set a car on fire and touched off an "inferno" in his Webster home on a strip of land along the Lake Ontario shore, took up a sniper's position and opened fire on the first firefighters to arrive at about 5:30 a.m. Christmas Eve.

Spengler, 62, traded rifle fire with a Webster police officer who had accompanied the firefighters and then killed himself with a gunshot to the head.

Investigators believe remains found in the burned home are those of Cheryl Spengler, but that hadn't been confirmed, and it was unknown how she died. The Spengler siblings had lived in the home with their mother, Arline Spengler, who died in October. In all, seven houses were destroyed by the flames.

There also was no word from authorities about how William Spengler, who served time for his grandmother's beating death, got three guns found with his body: a military-style Bushmaster .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and a .38-caliber revolver.

Federal authorities confirmed Wednesday they had traced the sale of the weapons, but they didn't release details.