NEW YORK, Dec 24: Two fire-fighters were shot dead and two others wounded in New York state on Monday when a gunman opened fire as they responded to a Christmas Eve blaze, in what police called an apparent ambush.

The incident — which comes as debate rages in the United States about gun control following the Newtown school massacre earlier this month — happened shortly before 6am in Webster, on the shores of Lake Ontario.

The shooter was found dead at the scene, apparently of a gunshot wound.

Police have not speculated on a possible motive. “It does appear that it was a trap that was set for our first responders,” Webster police chief Gerald Pickering told a press conference, adding that investigators were pursuing several leads.

“The responding fire-fighters, when they pulled up at the scene, were fired upon,” Pickering said.

“Four of the fire-fighters were shot. Two are deceased, two were transported to area hospitals,” he added, noting that the two injured were in serious condition. “We are a safe community, a tragedy like this is just horrendous.”

Pickering said it appeared there was only one shooter, and that the suspect was found dead, apparently by a gunshot wound. It was not immediately clear if he killed himself or was shot in the crossfire with police.

“There was some pursuit... the threat has been eliminated,” he said. “The neighbourhood is safe at this time.”

A security cordon was put up around the scene and residents were evacuated. Fire-fighters were still battling to contain the blaze, as the shooting thwarted initial efforts to douse the flames.  So far, four homes have been destroyed and four others damaged. New York state governor Andrew Cuomo called the incident a “horrific shooting” and offered his condolences to the families of the victims. “New York’s first responders are true heroes as they time and again selflessly rush toward danger in order to keep our families and communities safe,” Cuomo said in a statement.—AFP

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