Webster fire tragedy rekindles Cohoes memories

Posted at: 12/24/2012 11:44 PM
By: Dan Levy

COHOES - So what happens the next time the alarm goes off? How will local firefighters face their next emergency with Webster, New York in the back of their mind?

Just as quickly as they'd respond to a pending emergency, firefighters were suited and well equipped on Monday with words of reaction to the Webster tragedy.

"How dare this person do that," declared John D'Alessandro, a volunteer firefighter from Halfmoon and spokesman for the Firemens' Association of the State of New York. "These are first responders, they're coming to help."

D'Alessandro speaks on behalf of the 90,000 men and women volunteers of FANYS, stressing that situation awareness has always been a big part of the job, but now even more so.

"While you're always cognizant of something like this in the back of your head, it doesn't come into your head when you respond," D'Alessandro says, adding that even the best training can only get you so far. "A lot of fire departments do have procedures and policies in place for a situation like this, unfortunately if this was a deliberately set ambush, you can't prepare for that."

Meanwhile, Cohoes Fire Lieutenant Jamie Hogan, a 17-year veteran, states the obvious about Webster.

"It's a scary world," he says, "I'm very surprised it's not something we're used to in the fire service. Times are changing so we do have to evaluate the situation if we were in a situation like that I'd imagine we'd have handled it the same way. You have to retreat and stabilize the scene."

If you think it can't happen in Cohoes, you'd be wrong because it did happen there in January, 2007. At the time, Engine Two was on the way back from an EMS call when firefighters heard a loud noise and when they checked it out, they found damage on the side of the truck of what appeared to be bullet or pellet marks.

There were no injuries or arrests in that incident and the case, to this day, remains open.

"It's not going to really change our firefighting abilities," Hogan said, "We respond with the police department so we're hoping we can still focus on our job."