NEW YORK - Two firefighters were shot dead and two others were wounded in New York state on Monday when a gunman opened fire as the emergency personnel responded to a Christmas Eve blaze, police said.
The incident -- which comes as debate rages in the United States about gun control following the Newtown school massacre -- happened shortly before 6:00 am (1100 GMT) in Webster, a suburb of Rochester.
"The responding firefighters, when they pulled up at the scene, were fired upon by one or more shooters," Webster police chief Gerald Pickering told a press conference.
"Four of the firefighters were shot. Two are deceased, two were transported to area hospitals... it’s still an active crime scene."
Pickering later said it appeared there was only one shooter, and that the suspect was found dead at the scene, killed by an apparent gunshot wound.
The two wounded firefighters were listed in guarded condition at a local hospital, according to the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper.
Monroe county sheriff Patrick O’Flynn said there was no longer any "active shooting" at the scene, where a security cordon was put up and residents were evacuated. Firefighters were still battling to contain the blaze.
The incident in Webster comes 10 days after the shooting rampage at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 children, aged six and seven, and six adults were killed.
The shooter, Adam Lanza, killed his mother at their home before heading to the school, where he eventually took his own life.
The Newtown shooting has revived debate in the United States on the country’s gun laws, which are far more lax than in most other developed nations.
President Barack Obama said he would support a new bill to ban assault rifles, and has put Vice President Joe Biden in charge of a panel looking at a wide range of other measures, from school security to mental health.
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has pledged to introduce a bill in January that would ban at least 100 military-style semi-automatic assault weapons, and would curb the transfer, importation and the possession of such arms.
The United States has suffered an explosion of gun violence over the last three decades, including 62 mass shooting incidents since 1982.
Copyright © 2012 AFP