Fallen firefighters honored at Last Alarm ceremonyWritten by Bailey G. Dick | | email@example.com
Click here to view a program from the ceremony: Last Alarm Memorial Ceremony Program
Click here for a gallery of photos.
Thousands of supporters packed the SeaGate Convention Centre on Jan. 30 to bid farewell to two Toledo firefighters killed in the line of duty last weekend.
First responders from across the United States and Canada filed past caskets containing the bodies of Pvt. James Dickman and Pvt. Stephen Machcinski before the ceremony, pausing to salute the fallen firefighters.
Outside, dozens of supporters stood at the entrance to the building with signs thanking first responders, while a line to enter the building stretched nearly to the end of the block. Fire trucks from across the region lined Monroe Street during the service.
Public officials, union representatives and coworkers of Dickman and Machcinski spoke of the firefighters’ bravery, and recalled fond memories.
Jim Swartz, who was in the same fire class as Machcinski, and spoke on the family’s behalf, said that over Christmas, Machcinski had talked to his family about a new firefighter at his station — Dickman — that he was impressed with.
“His sister Beth told me that Steve was talking highly of a new officer, and that’s not something he did very often,” Swartz said.
Dickman had just joined the Toledo Fire Department (TFD) last year after 10 years with the Perkins Township Fire Department, while Machcinski was a 15-year veteran of TFD.
Toledo Fire Chief Luis Santiago praised not only the fallen officers but their families for their strength during the past several days.
“They seemed concerned about me, they were worried about the department, when faced with a tragedy of their own,” Santiago said of the Dickman and Machcinski families.
“These are two very solid families, and that’s why Stephen and Jamie were such good fits for our department,” he said.
Santiago also praised the resilience of the members of the Toledo Fire Department in the aftermath of the tragedy.
“When we went through our darkest time, you have shined the brightest,” Santiago said. “Toledo has one of the finest fire departments in the country.”
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur presented the families of Dickman and Machinski with flags that had been flown over the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Both spent time speaking to and exchanging hugs with family members.
“It is all of you who run toward danger,” Brown said. “And it is all of us who are in your debt.”
Brown spoke of Dickman’s dream to become a firefighter, saying that the only thing he loved more than being a firefighter was his wife, also named Jamie, and his children, 3-year-old Paige and 1-month-old Grant.
Brown also told those gathered about Machcinski’s kitchen prowess, his teasing of fellow firefighters and how much he loved his niece and nephew as well as his brother Richard, who is a firefighter in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Coworkers of both firefighters spoke on behalf of their families, sharing memories of their friends and eliciting some smiles during the otherwise somber two-hour service.
“Fourteen years ago, they thought it would be a good idea to put two rookies together,” said TFD firefighter Jim Swartz as he recalled his and Machcinski’s first alarm together during an East Side fire. “Steve looked over at me with that huge Machcinski grin, and said, ‘I can’t believe we’re getting paid for this.’”
Swartz suggested that everyone remember Machcinski with a drink on St. Patrick’s Day — his favorite holiday and his birthday.
Battalion Chief of Training Sally Glombowski spoke on behalf of the Dickman family.
“His personality was irresistible,” Glombowski said. “He was never afraid to try something new or different, he never made excuses and he was always excited to learn things the ‘Toledo Way.’”
Glombowski called Dickman a “topper,” explaining that he always had a story for every situation, and that “each one seemed bigger and better.”
She described Dickman as being “stubborn” and “both simple and profound.”
“He was confident that he was in the exact place God intended for him,” Glombowski said.
Toledo mayor D. Michael Collins, himself a former police officer, choked back tears as he described the brotherhood of first responders.
“Public safety is not only a career, but a vocation. … They deserve, and rightly so, the title of heroes,” Collins said.
Collins called the tragedy “one of the most difficult experiences of my life.”
Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Firefighters, presented the Dickman and Machcinski families with medals of honor.
“This job can humble you, and it can break your heart,” Schaitberger said. “It’s hard for anyone else to grasp the culture and incredible bond we have. You eat together, you live together, you work together.”
Members of the St. Francis de Sales High School men’s chorus The Singing Blue sang “On Eagle’s Wings” and “You Raise Me Up” during the service, and dozens of bagpipers and drummers opened the evening.
Battalion Chief John Kaminski noted that members of neighboring fire departments volunteered to staff TFD stations so that officers could attend the service.
A fire started at a home on Collingwood Boulevard during the service, and those volunteers responded to the blaze.
The memorial was steeped in tradition, with a “Last Alarm” closing out the evening.
A bell was rung three times for each firefighter, and both of their badge numbers were retired.
A fire dispatcher announced the “final call” for both Dickman and Machcinski, which was heard on TFD radios as well as in the auditorium.
“We’ll take it from here, brothers,” said retired Battalion Chief Renzo Maraldo before the coffins were escorted out of the auditorium and firefighters stood in salute.
Tags: Harold Schaitberger, International Association of Firefighters, James Dickman, Jim Swartz, John Kaminski, Last Alarm, Marcy Kaptur, Renzo Maraldo, Sally Glombowski, Sherrod Brown, St. Francis De Sales High School, Stephen Machcinski, The Singing Blue, Toledo Fire Department