In August 2011, Riley responded to a fire and explosion at a gas station on State Road where an above-ground storage tank overflowed, and the vapors and heat from a fuel delivery truck caused the blast.
Friend and fellow firefighter Chance Hines was also at the scene. He lost all hearing in his left ear. “We were absolutely covered in fuel,” Hines said. Riley’s health really started declining six years ago when he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, encephalopathy and Parkinsonism. He eventually could not walk on his own and had trouble speaking. “His family has been incredible at helping future generations of firefighters with some of the same illnesses that Mike was experiencing,” Hines said.
Riley’s family believes his eventual health issues stemmed from that in the Line of Duty incident.
His family sued the fuel tank driver, his then-employer, and the owner of the former gas station. A case they ultimately lost. Riley’s wife, Lani, is advocating for people like Michael through an upcoming documentary called “Behind the Smoke ” and fighting for new legislation to protect firefighters.
Through it all, Hines said, his bond with Riley will stand forever.
“These are my brothers and sisters that we work with. Even after we retire, or something happens,” he said. “Mike was exactly what you would want as a firefighter. He absolutely loved the job, the career. Just fantastic at what he did.” A private virtual memorial service for Michael Riley will be held on New Year’s Eve. Our condolences to all those affected. Rest In Peace.
REMEMBERING WEST WEBSTER FIREFIGHTERS
10 years ago today, on Christmas eve 2012, West Webster Firefighters Tomasz Kaczowka, 19 and Michael Chiapperini, 43 were shot and killed in an ambush attack in West Webster, New York. If you have never heard this radio traffic-see below.
It was a fire call, on Christmas eve, a car fire with an exposure, the sort of “so called routine job” that all of us turn out for regularly. But this time-once again in our history-it was a trap….there was a house and a car burning on arrival and they did what any Firefighter would do-go to work. What was initially un-size-up-able was a waiting psycho killer, who had positioned his cowardly self as a sniper on a berm above the unknowing Firefighters.
Before they could begin to hit the fire, the Firefighters were met by blasts of gunfire. Four were hit by the bullets, and two were murdered. Radio traffic demonstrates amazing heroism by surviving WW FF’s (see below) and excellent performance by the Fire Dispatcher.
The 2 Firefighters killed in the Line of Duty were Michael J. Chiapperini, 43, a local Police Lieutenant, and Tomasz Kaczowka, 19, a 911 Dispatcher for Monroe County. The two wounded Firefighters, Theodore Scardino and Joseph Hofstetter fortunately survived (see below).
WHEN a Firefighter dies in the Line of Duty-the least any of us can do is to learn from what happened-and while this incident was as unpredictable as any-what Mike Chiapperini, and Tomasz Kaczowka did, along with the WWFD Officers and members, thru their sacrifice, is greatly heighten the awareness and education for Firefighters everywhere on the potential-and preparedness training related to “active shooter” incidents. As we approach another year anniversary, we remember the friends and families of the late Mike Chiapperini, Tomasz Kaczowka, their family, friends and the officers and members of the West Webster FD. RIP.
FREE DOWNLOADABLE WEBINAR FEATURING WWFD:
HERE is an “on demand” webinar related to ACTIVE SHOOTER incidents, featuring West Webster Fire Officer:
Below is the incredible radio traffic from that incident.
LISTEN as the injured Firefighters, Joseph Hofstetter, who is also a career Firefighter with the Rochester FD, and Theodore Scardino, are incredibly in control on the radio, despite their serious wounds, as they provide updates, protecting other FF’s, EMT’s and Police Officers-saving more lives.