Firefighting helicopters, left, try to contain a blaze at the alleged shooter’s home. The critically injured captain, right, is escorted from a medical chopper into a hospital. Screenshots from YouTube videos. Composite image by Joshua Skovlund/Coffee or Die Magazine.
Shots rang out Tuesday morning in Los Angeles County Fire Station 81 as firefighters on duty there faced the nightmare of a gunman who was one of their own. A firefighter engineer was killed in the shooting, and another was critically injured. Authorities confirmed that the alleged shooter is another firefighter from Station 81 who was off duty at the time.
The deceased firefighter is a 44-year-old man with 20 years of service at the LA County Fire Department. Another man, 54, who officials say is a captain at Station 81, sustained multiple gunshot wounds. The shooter, who has not been identified other than as a fellow firefighter, appears to have killed himself.
“We love our community, that’s why we do this,” Jon Matheny, an LA County Fire Department public information officer, said. “Firefighters, EMS personnel, and police officers — we love the communities that we live in and that we serve. When something like this happens to one of our own, it is unexpected and the amount of death and tragedy that we see every day — it’s just one of those situations where you’re never quite prepared for something to enter your own house, if you will, on this level.”
The LA fire department said the incident unfolded around 11 a.m. Tuesday at the station, which is located in Agua Dulce, a city north of Los Angeles. LA Sheriff’s Department personnel responded to reports of gunshots at the station and arrived to find one dead and another critically wounded. The captain was flown to a local hospital and is said to be in critical but stable condition.
Shortly after the firehouse shooting, a house belonging to the alleged shooter erupted into flames, which authorities believe was started by him. A body was seen in an empty pool with what appeared to be a gunshot wound to the head after the house caught fire. LA deputies were dispatched to the house fire, but they were unable to approach the building due to heat from the blaze.
The Special Enforcement Bureau, which is the LA Sheriff’s Department SWAT team, was deployed to the area, lowering themselves from helicopters. Because the suspect’s home was not considered safe, firefighting helicopters could be seen dropping water on the burning building, a practice typically reserved for brush fires. The building eventually burned to the ground.
The motive of the shooting still is unknown.
“I stand here with a heavy heart,” LA County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said. “It’s truly a sad day and tragic day for the LA County Fire Department.”
Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He has covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children. His creative outlets include Skovlund Photography and Concentrated Emotion.
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