Firefighter fatally shot, captain injured by colleague at Agua Dulce fire station
Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Daryl L. Osby has dealt with the loss of many lives over the years, “but none as tragic as today,” he said Tuesday.
Never before has an off-duty firefighter walked into one of his firehouses, taken aim with a gun and started shooting — until Tuesday morning at Fire Station 81 in Agua Dulce, where a gunman killed a fellow firefighter and wounded a captain before later turning the gun on himself.
“As a fire chief, I never thought that when our firefighters face danger, that they would face that danger in one of our community fire stations,” Osby said hours after the shooting.
An off-duty firefighter killed a fellow firefighter and critically wounded a captain in a shooting at Agua Dulce fire station Tuesday morning, officials said.
The deceased victim, who has not been identified, was a 44-year-old firefighter who had been with the department for more than 20 years, officials said. He suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene.
The second victim, a 54-year-old fire captain, was taken to Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital with multiple gunshot wounds, where he remained in critical but stable condition Tuesday afternoon.
Officials scrambled to keep up with the day’s chaotic chain of events, which began with the shooting about 10:50 a.m.
After the attack, the gunman fled to his home on Bent Spur Drive in Acton — about 10 miles away — where he barricaded himself before allegedly setting the house on fire.
Although Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies couldn’t enter because of the flames, fire crews similarly had no way of knowing whether the man inside was armed as they attempted to battle the blaze.
By 3 p.m., the 3,600 square-foot home had been reduced to near rubble, and the person believed to be the gunman had been found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in a small pool on the property, according to sheriff’s officials.
L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the motive for the attack is still under investigation.
A county source with knowledge of the situation said there was an ongoing dispute between the deceased and the shooter, who worked different shifts but lived in the same area.
The argument — potentially about how the station was run and maintained — escalated Tuesday morning, the source said. The gunman shot and killed the firefighter, and the captain was wounded when he tried to intercede.
Osby, who has worked at Station 81, called it a “small, hometown-type fire station — very quiet, very quaint.”
“Generally speaking, the people on that shift would have a good working relationship,” he told The Times. “Obviously something went wrong with that relationship today.”
Lt. Brandon Dean of the sheriff’s homicide bureau said the person in the small pool outside the Acton residence was believed to be the suspect.
“We feel fairly confident that is our shooter, but we cannot say with 100% confidence,” he said during a news briefing.
According to property records, the home is owned by a veteran county firefighter.
Dean said no deputies fired weapons and no one else was believed to have been at the home.
After the house caught fire, aerial footage showed thick black smoke billowing as flames chewed through the structure. Fire crews eventually doused the flames through a series of water drops from the air, and investigators were able to move in.
“Firefighters leave their homes and loved ones every day knowing the risks involved in our profession,” Edward A. Kelly, president of the International Assn. of Firefighters, said in a statement.
“The challenges of being a firefighter or paramedic include seeing and experiencing some of life’s most horrifying circumstances. Nothing, however, can adequately prepare anyone for today’s tragedy.”
The deceased firefighter is survived by a wife and three daughters, Osby said, describing him as “truly dedicated, one of our better firefighters, amazing, and a true loss to our department.”
The attack spurred an outpouring of support and heartbreak from Greater Los Angeles.
“My heart is with our firefighters and the families of those affected,” L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said on Twitter.
Calling it a “heinous act of violence,” L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn said firefighters risk their lives at work every day.
“Between emergency calls, the fire station must have felt like their safe haven,” she said. “Unfortunately that sense of safety has now been shattered.”
L.A. County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis said she was directing flags to be flown at half-staff at all county buildings.
“My most sincerest condolences to the family of the firefighter who was tragically killed in today’s shooting at Fire Station 81 in Agua Dulce,” she said.
The shooting happened only days after a mass shooting at Valley Transportation Authority in San Jose left nine people dead and saw the White House similarly ordering flags at half-staff.
Osby said firefighters often provide assistance to others and asked that the community in turn provide its support, assistance and prayers during their time of need.
“I stand here with a heavy heart,” he said. “Today is truly a sad day and a tragic day for the Los Angeles County Fire Department.”
Times staff writer Leila Miller contributed to this report.
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