A Miller-Meteor Cadillac Ambulance was ordered by the West Webster Volunteer Firemen’s Association on Sept. 4, 1973.
The Brighton Truck and Equipment Co. delivered it in December of the same year. The purchase price was approximately $18,000, and this apparatus was put into service in the western part of the town of Webster and the north-western part of Penfield, in Monroe County.
This ambulance was retired in November of 1985. It responded to approximately 6,000 calls during its 12 years of service. In 1991, this apparatus was donated to the FASNY Museum of Firefighting.
Years came and went, and the ambulance was exhibited at the FASNY Museum of Firefighting with over 60 other pieces of apparatus during this time. It was also loaned to the New York State Museum for a special exhibit on ambulances. On Dec. 24, 2012, the unthinkable happened. A man ambushed firefighters on that horrible day, fatally shooting two West Webster firefighters, as they arrived to battle a blaze. Two other volunteer firefighters were wounded. A police officer from the nearby town of Greece also suffered shrapnel wounds when his vehicle was hit by gunfire.
Investigators believed the suspect, William Spengler, set the original fire, then likely set himself up on a berm with a clear view of the scene, and started shooting.
One of the slain firefighters, Lt. Michael Chiapperini, was a 25-year veteran of the West Webster Fire Department, previously serving as chief of the department. He was also a lieutenant at the Webster Police Department, rising through the ranks as a dispatcher, police officer, investigator, sergeant and finally, making the rank of lieutenant. He committed his life to public service for the town of Webster, and recently he had volunteered to go to Long Island to help those suffering after Superstorm Sandy.
The other slain firefighter was Tomasz Kaczowka, who was also a 911 dispatcher. He had been with the West Webster Fire Department for a little over a year. At only 19, Kaczowka had just begun his life: A life that was clearly centered on service to his community.
The West Webster Fire Department requested that the Museum return the West Webster ambulance. The request was the result of a memorial being planned to honor the slain firefighters in their new firehouse museum, which is currently under construction. The ambulance was picked up at the Museum and made the journey back to West Webster on May 2. This action was determined to be in the best interest of all, considering the horrific circumstances of the ambush and murders of Lt. Chiapperini and Kaczowka. This event was unlike any other line of duty death and as such, the Museum’s Board of Directors decided to make a new policy to accommodate the request from the West Webster Fire Department.
This sad homecoming will continue the ambulance’s service to the town of Webster in a new and unique way: honoring its fallen heroes.