At approximately 0400 hrs. E6, Q6, E2, E1 and Battalion 3 were dispatched to a reported house fire. Upon arrival, we saw that a single bay detached garage was fully involved. After stretching lines to the adjacent backyard, Aerial Operator Eddie S. and I were assigned to do a primary search of the house in front of the garage. Assuming the occupants were asleep, I began banging on the door and shouting “Fire Department”. I sent Eddie back to the quint for the Rabbit Tool, as we got no response from inside the house and were going to force entry. While he was gone, I forced the screen door, which was wired shut. This struck me as odd, and after returned he began to set up with the rabbit. I was still banging on the door, feeling very uneasy that Eddie was standing directly in front of the door. I asked him to move to one side, and just as he stepped toward me, I heard a gunshot from inside. The bullet crashed through a small window in the door and passed between Eddie and me. I then heard two more shots. I grabbed Eddie and found our Captain in the front yard. I reported what had just happened and he reported to Command. The BC then made a radio announcement to drop all lines and retreat behind the apparatus. PD was notified and responded in force. Thus began a 4-hour standoff with the ocupant while his garage continued to burn. During this time we discovered two notes posted in the front yard. The noted stated “Firemen and Police – come in and die”. He later lit the house, and while we conducted defensive attack operations, he committed suicide. We found his body later that morning. He was still holding his pistol. Had we seen the notes earlier I feel that Ed and I would not have approached the door. Close call.