By Ann Rowland
Flags in Toledo, Ohio are flying at half-staff today in remembrance of two firefighters who lost their lives while battling an apartment fire on Sunday. Firefighters Stephen Machcinski, 42, and James Dickman, 31, were killed while fighting the fire in a six-unit building. These were the first active fire fatalities for the Toledo Fire Department since 1981. No residents of the building were injured.
Machcinski and Dickman, from Engine No. 3, were battling the blaze in the building when they became disoriented and were lost inside the building for several minutes, according to radio traffic. Fire Chief Luis Santiago was visibly shaken during his press conference and stated “After what could be described as valiant efforts to help their fellow firefighters, they removed them from the structure and began immediate care and lifesaving measures.”
Santiago said that the firefighters suffered their fatal injuries inside the building. Firefighters removed the bodies on stretchers and they were taken to a local hospital where they were pronounced dead. Fellow firefighters and department personnel were still gathered at the hospital hours after the two men were brought there.
After removing the bodies from the building, firefighters remained on the scene to continue to battle the fire. Later Sunday evening, they gathered together in their union hall, where the mood was somber and silent, to hear the “official” news that two of their own had perished. “Everyone is just numb right now,” Dan Desmond, vice president of Toledo Firefighters Local 92, told the Toledo Blade.
At the Sunday evening press conference, Toledo Mayor Michael Collins said that police officers and firefighters are different in that they “run into harm’s way instead of running away” from it. He asked that everyone keep these families and the police and fire communities in their prayers because “the next few days are going to be really challenging”.
Chief Santiago has promised that a “detailed investigation” into the fire would take place. He said that the investigation would involve different agencies. Fire investigators were already on the scene Sunday afternoon but declined to comment.
Firefighter Machcinski had 16 years on the job while Dickman had only 6 months. Dickman’s class had not yet had their graduation ceremony.
“This is an indelible thing that can never be erased,” Mayor Collins said.