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An off-duty firefighter opened fire at a Los Angeles County fire station Tuesday, killing one and injuring another before setting fire to his home less than 10 miles away, authorities said.
Sheriff's deputies responded to a 911 call shortly after 11:15 a.m. at Fire Station 81 in Agua Dulce, about 45 miles north of Los Angeles, and "discovered there had been a shooting at the station itself," Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at an afternoon news conference.
One victim, a 44-year-old fire engineer, died at the scene. Another firefighter, 54, was transported to a local hospital, officials said.
The gunman then barricaded himself inside his home and set it on fire, station Fire Chief Daryl Osby said. The suspect was later identified from witness statements as a fire engineer who worked at the station, Sheriff's Lt. Brandon Dean said. Authorities believe he died by suicide, but they have yet to gain access to his still-burning home, he said.
Aerial footage from the home showed thick black smoke billowing into the air as fire crews made water drops. The house was engulfed in flames in three hours, footage showed.
“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.”
He said family and co-workers described the victim as “truly dedicated, one of our better firefighters and a true loss to our department.” Authorities had not publicly identified him as of late Tuesday afternoon.
“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.
This is the second workplace shooting in a week in California. A disgruntled employee opened fire at a Northern California light rail yard last week, killing nine people.
Agua Dulce is a rural community of about 3,000 people in the desert of northern Los Angeles County known for its rock formations and panoramic views. It's a dry, hilly area, and ranches with horses and other livestock break up the mountainous landscape.
Neighbors watched the black plume of smoke rising from the burning house in the nearby community of Acton. 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 dozens of deputies’ cars racing up the street. They emerged wearing bulletproof vests, he said.
May has been a resident of the community for 23 years but didn’t know who lived at the burning 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 burning 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 in Santa Clarita called to tell them the news.
“We didn’t know what she was talking about,” Dalrymple said. “It’s usually pretty peaceful out here.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Los Angeles County fire station shooting: At least 1 dead, 1 hurt