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Firefighter wounded in NY rampage is back to work

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July 9, 2013 12:46 PM EST | AP

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A professional firefighter who survived the Christmas Eve shooting rampage in upstate New York that left two volunteer firefighters dead returned to work Tuesday, saying he felt "very lucky and fortunate to be here."

Joseph Hofstetter rejoined his Rochester Fire Department crew Tuesday morning, local media outlets reported, more than six months after being shot while responding to a call with the suburban West Webster Fire District, where he volunteered.

"I'm blessed," Hofstetter said after he showed up for his 7 a.m. shift on Engine 2. "This is the only job I ever wanted. I'm thrilled to be back."

Rochester firefighters and Hofstetter's family and friends were on hand to welcome him back to work.

"It's a huge day for our family," said his father, Carl Hofstetter. "It's the day we've been waiting for."

Hofstetter and volunteer firefighter Ted Scardino survived the shooting early on the morning of Dec. 24. Volunteer firefighters Mike Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka were shot to death by William Spengler Jr. Chiapperini was also a lieutenant with the Webster Police Department.

Authorities said Spengler had set fire to his car and home on the Lake Ontario shore before ambushing firefighters. After a shootout with police, Spengler killed himself. In a suicide note, he wrote of a plan to destroy his neighborhood and "do what I like doing best, killing people."

Spengler's former neighbor, 24-year-old Dawn Nguyen, was charged with buying the convicted felon a semi-automatic rifle and 12-gauge shotgun at an upstate New York store and lying on the paperwork by saying they were for her. She has pleaded not guilty.