Thousands expected at ‘last alarm’ memorial Jan. 30Written by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
The two Toledo firefighters who died in the line of duty on Jan. 26 will be honored with a “last alarm” memorial ceremony set for 7-9 p.m. Jan. 30 at Seagate Centre, 401 Jefferson Ave.
Stephen Machcinski, 42, and James Dickman, 31, died at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center from injuries sustained while fighting a six-unit apartment fire in North Toledo.
The event will be open to the public and the number of people in attendance is expected to far exceed the 5,000-person seating capacity, said Toledo Fire Department (TFD) Chief Luis Santiago at a news conference Jan. 28.
“We are truly expecting folks from literally all over the country and beyond … to attend and help us pay proper respects,” said Santiago, who said the department has been receiving messages of support from fire chiefs across the country, including the Prescott, Ariz., department that lost 19 firefighters to a July wildfire.
“There are a lot of people reaching out,” Santiago said. “From coast to coast. From Canada. From all over the place.
“If you have not been exposed or involved with something like this you are really going to be amazed and overwhelmed with what you’re going to see on Thursday,” he added. “The brother and sisterhood that we experience and enjoy in the fire service is going to be on display on Thursday and it’s going to be quite a thing to see.”
Santiago said the event “will help tremendously” in lifting the spirits of the local firefighters who have been struggling to process the loss.
“A lot of our own members haven’t seen things like this, so it will be a great help to a lot of us that are feeling the pain and will take our minds off some of the things we’ve probably been thinking over the last few days,” Santiago said. “We’ll be embracing and welcoming that support.”
Return to work
Santiago said many firefighters find returning to work therapeutic.
“For some, it’s therapy; for some, it’s a way to get through this because knowing the two firefighters that we know, that we’ve lost, they wouldn’t want it any different,” Santiago said. “So we draw some comfort in that but it also is, it might seem weird, but it is a bit therapeutic for us to just cont to do our job and continue to serve in the spirit they did.”
Mayor D. Michael Collins said he experienced “another one of those emotional ambushes” when he passed two TFD rigs on his way to work Jan. 28.
“I just had to stop and think for a second. They are doing exactly what brought the tragedies which occurred on Sunday,” Collins said. “They are doing that today and they are not doing it for reward and they are not doing it for prestige; they are doing it because that’s what they do and that is what their heart is all about. They are out there today giving that same measure of energy and giving that same measure of challenge and taking that same opportunity of risk that unfortunately brings us together this afternoon. I’m very mindful of that.”
Both families are also planning funeral services, but those are intended to be more private, Santiago said.
Dickman’s family will host visitation 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 30 at Cedar Creek Church, 29129 Lime City Road, in Perrysburg. Another visitation will take place 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 31 at The Chapel, 4444 Galloway Road, in Sandusky, with burial to follow, according to his obituary. Memorials are suggested to The Dickman Family Memorial Fund, via any PNC Bank.
Machcinski’s family will host visitation 2-9 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Walker Funeral Home, 5155 Sylvania Ave., according to his obituary. His funeral is set for 10 a.m. Feb. 1 in the funeral home.
His family asked that donations be made to Dickman’s family instead.
“I can tell you that it’s easy to see the makeup of Firefighter Machcinski and the work that he did and where it came from,” Santiago said. “That’s amazing. They understand that Steve, single, might not have the same challenges after his passing that the Dickman family has, so that’s very humbling even as someone on the periphery sees that. It pulls at your heart.”
Autopsy results released Jan. 28 showed both firefighters died of thermal burns and exposure to carbon monoxide. The full coroner’s report, including the toxicology report, is expected in a couple weeks, Santiago said.
Meanwhile the investigation into the cause of the fire continues. Santiago said the firefighters who were at the scene and in the building that day will be interviewed more thoroughly in the next few days. The department had been giving them space to grieve before questioning them.
“It’s been a delicate balance because they are hurting. We’re all hurting,” Santiago said.