Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- Firefighters Joseph Hofstetter and Ted Scardino were among the first on the scene of a fire when a gunman ambushed first responders near Rochester on Christmas Eve, killing two firemen.
Hofstetter and Scardino survived the attack, both thought they were responding to a routine car fire.
“I didn’t know what was happening until right before I was shot,” explained Hofstetter.
“I heard pop, pop, pop and thought it was tires, shocks in the car and within the second, Chip says, ‘we’re getting shot at,’” Scardino recalled.
That’s when both men started to realize it was a trap. On Wednesday, for the first time, the volunteer firefighters bravely recapped how they survived the ambush.
"You train for everything, you don't prepare yourself for what happened that day, adrenaline came over and had a calming effect on me, just focused…my first thought was I don't want more people to be there,” Hofstetter continued.
Hofstetter humbly says he was just doing his job. But that clear, calm thinking amidst all the chaos saved lives. Other crews were called off and the responding firefighters had to fight their instincts and let this home burn so other first responders weren’t put in harm’s way.
“In survival mode I took a deep breath and said am I able to breathe, will I pass out, and said alright I’m going to sit here for five minutes and play dead and this nightmare will be over and swarmed with police. I was under the truck for about an hour and a half before I was rescued,” said Scardino.
Both men continue physical therapy treatment and are on their way to a full recovery. There’s no word on if and when they will return to work.
Two firefighters – Tomasz Kaczowka and Michael Chiapperini died at the scene of the Christmas attack. The gunman, 62-year-old William Spengler killed himself.