Fire Station No. 3 rededicated in memory of fallen firefightersWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Fire Station No. 3 in North Toledo was rededicated June 16. But the celebratory mood at the station that many fought hard to save was tempered by the fact that two of its members, Stephen Machcinski and James Dickman, won’t be there when the renovated station returns to service.
“It’s a day of mixed emotions, but we’re trying real hard to make it a good, positive, happy day,” said Toledo Fire & Rescue Department (TFD) Chief Luis Santiago. “Having the families of Steve and Jamie here, that’s what really helps.”
The two Toledo firefighters were killed Jan. 26 from injuries sustained while fighting an apartment fire in North Toledo.
The owner of the building, Ray Abou-Arab, is facing charges of arson and murder.
The $2.8 million project, located on Bush and Erie streets, renovated the existing firehouse and added a 7,000-square-foot addition. The station contains sleeping quarters, a dual-purpose lounge area/training room, a full kitchen and dining area. The station’s former garage doors were transformed into large bay windows. It’s the only TFD station to have an elevator.
“The blend between the old and new is just amazing,” Santiago said after the ceremony.
Remembrances of the fallen firefighters pervaded the ceremony, and the station is full of permanent reminders. Each speaker referenced them, a memorial plaque hangs in the kitchen and another memorial plaque, donated by the builders, was unveiled during the ceremony.
The plaque in the kitchen features photos of the two fallen firefighters and the words “We Remember.” A carved stone plaque placed in the back wall of the garage bay by the site’s work crews reads, “In Memory of Stephen Machcinski and James Dickman, Last Alarm 1-26-2014, From the Crew that Built This House.”
“It’s beyond description,” Santiago said of the stone from the builders. “They did that out of their own initiative. They really took our loss hard as well.”
Mark Pitchford of Toledo-based Willson Builders recalled frequent interactions with the firefighters of engine company No. 3. The crew has operated out of Station No. 13 on Front Street in East Toledo since the Bush Street station was closed in September 2012 over safety concerns due to a buckling floor and other structural issues.
“On any given day it was not uncommon to see the No. 3 drive by two, three, sometimes more times a day on their way to or coming back from a run, always looking and waving as we would all do the same back to them,” Pitchford said during the ceremony.
“The Monday of Jan. 27, it was different. It was quiet inside this house. They drove by, still responding to calls, but no one was waving, not in the trucks or on the job site. On the job site we all felt the loss as well. We all felt we needed to do something to honor them.”
The workers decided to place a plaque between the back garage doors “to show that Jamie and Steve are watching this place until you get back home safe,” Pitchford said.
Among the speakers was Mayor D. Michael Collins, who began his remarks by addressing the Machcinski and Dickman families.
“This is a very challenging moment for each of you, collectively and independently,” Collins said. “However, I think if we look into the recesses of our hearts we will know that two brave men are smiling and looking down upon us today with a sense of pride.”
Instead of a ribbon-cutting, firefighters used the Jaws of Life to cut a red metal bar.
Former Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, a retired TFD chief who was once stationed at Station No. 3, was also in attendance. North Toledo residents Miriam Miller and her son-in-law Harold Gibson made paper signs they placed in front of the station that read: “Ladder #3, In Memory of Our Fallen Heros” and “Welcome Home No. #3, Thank You!”
“It’s heartwarming,” Miller said of the station reopening. “It feels so good to have our firefighters back, but so hard to lose two of them.
“It’s so beautiful,” Miller said, of the refurbished structure. “It was so terrible looking [before].”
Another nearby resident, Tina Petersen, said she attended the dedication ceremony to check out the new building as well as express her gratitude to the Machcinski and Dickman families in person. Petersen had a seizure in January and a TFD EMT crew responded. A few days later, one of her neighbors recognized the EMTs who had come to her house in a news story about the fatal Jan. 26 fire.
“I wanted to let them know what it meant to me,” Petersen said.
“It’s going to be so much better [in the neighborhood] with the fire station back,” she added.
Santiago called the station an “anchor” of the neighborhood.
“This is a very proud section of Toledo,” Santiago said. “They thought it was very, very important to have this not only maintained but refurbished and updated.”
TFD initially planned to repurpose the Bush Street station and build a new Station No. 3 at Jamie Farr Park in North Toledo, Santiago said. However, many community members along with several Toledo City Council members and then-Mayor Bell fought for the station to be repaired and reopened.
“We didn’t think that made sense,” said United North CEO Terry Glazer, who called the renovation and upcoming reopening “a great victory.”
“Not only did we save an old historical building, but kept a fire station at that location where there will continue to be a relationship between firefighters and neighbors,” Glazer said.
More positive changes will soon come to the neighborhood with construction plans for a new No. 12 fire station in North Toledo and the purchase of the nearby Summit Street YMCA by Toledo Public Schools (TPS), Glazer said.
“We’re gaining two fire stations as part of the solution and now TPS is buying the YMCA. That’s happening right down the block,” Glazer said. “It all just dovetails into a bigger strategy so we’ve had some real victories in that neighborhood.”
Tags: D. Michael Collins, James Dickman, Jamie Dickman, Luis Santiago, Mark Pitchford, Stephen Machcinski, Terry Glazer, TFD, Tina Petersen, Toledo Fire & Rescue Department, Toledo Fire Department, Willson Builders