SANTA CLARITA, Calif. – An off-duty Los Angeles County firefighter fatally shot a fellow firefighter and wounded another at their small community fire station Tuesday before going to his nearby home, setting it on fire and apparently killing himself, authorities said.
A 44-year-old fire specialist died and a 54-year-old firefighter was shot when the gunman opened fire shortly before 11 a.m. at Fire Station 81, which is about 45 miles (72 kilometers) north of Los Angeles, Fire Chief Daryl Osby told reporters. The wounded man was in critical but stable condition at a hospital.
The shooter was a firefighter specialist and engineer, authorities said. The fire chief said he could not speak to the motive for the attack and doesn’t know about any disciplinary actions.
“He was not scheduled to work today. He came back and confronted the on-duty personnel,” a visibly shaken Osby said. “I cannot speak to the mindset of the shooter. I can say that it’s very tragic and sad that that would be a decision point of one of the members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.”
The gunman, who was not identified, then went to his house less than 10 miles (16 kilometers) away, which authorities found engulfed in flames. He was later found dead in an empty pool.
The shooter appeared to have a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.
All the firefighters worked at the small station in Agua Dulce, a rural community of about 3,000 people in the desert of northern Los Angeles County known for its rock formations and panoramic views.
The shooting comes less than a week after a gunman killed nine of his co-workers at a rail yard in San Jose after rigging his home to burn down. He killed himself Wednesday after expressing hatred for his workplace for years.
The man who died in Tuesday's shooting at the fire station was a more than 20-year veteran who had been promoted to firefighter specialist, the person who drives the firetruck, officials said. He was shot multiple times in the upper torso, according to authorities.
The fire chief says family and co-workers described the victim, who was not identified, as “truly dedicated, one of our better firefighters and a true loss to our department.”
“As fire chief, I never thought when our firefighters face danger, they would face that danger at one of our community fire stations,” Osby said.
Neighbors watched black smoke pouring from the burned house in the nearby community of Acton, a dry, hilly area dotted with ranches with horses and other livestock. The fire burned for hours, gutting the home, with helicopters making multiple water drops to douse it.
Michael May, 70, lives down the road and said he was sitting in his living room when he heard the buzz of helicopters flying low.
“Around here, that usually means a fire,” he said.
He saw a swarm of police cars racing up the street, and deputies emerged wearing bulletproof vests.
May has been a resident of the community for 23 years but didn’t know who lived at the gutted home. He said many people in law enforcement live in the area, as well as some in the film industry.
“It’s a place people want to go for peace and quiet,” he said.
Brian Dalrymple, 79, lives across the street from May and said he thought the burned home had been sold recently.
He and his wife went outside to see the thick smoke, initially concerned the flames might spread to their home. Dalrymple said he never heard gunshots but saw deputies rushing up to the property, long guns in hand.
He said a friend called to tell them the news.
“We didn’t know what she was talking about,” Dalrymple said. “It’s usually pretty peaceful out here.”
Associated Press writers Christopher Weber and Robert Jablon in Los Angeles contributed to this story.