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MINT HILL, NC (WBTV) -
Fire fighters say when they approach a house on fire they look at the flames, study the smoke, and check to make sure the structure is not about to collapse. They didn't think about a gunman shooting them. Now they do.
Christmas Eve morning a Webster, New York man set his house on fire and then shot four fire fighters who responded to the scene. Two died. Investigators believe the fire was a trap to lure first responders.
Experts say what happened in Upstate New York was unusual. Still, some local departments took notice.
"After I learned some of the details, I sent an email out to the group. I think I used words like unbelievable and despicable" says Mint Hill Fire Chief John Phillips. "We use the term situational awareness a lot . This event in New York just puts another thing in that basket we need to be aware of as a possibility".
Chief Phillips says fire fighters at a working fire are not in the "mindset of having to think about the possibility that something like that might happen".
Now he's wondering how to get the 95 fire fighters in his department - which has a combination of volunteers and full time staff - thinking about all possibilities.
"That a question as time goes on we're going to have to answer because as fire chief my main concern is the safety of guys that work with me. That is paramount above all else so this is another aspect that we're going to have to learn how to address - to at least have the awareness that this kind of thing can happen".