By MORGAN MANNS
Personnel from the Fostoria Fire Division, along with thousands of other firefighters from across Ohio and around the nation gathered Thursday to honor and celebrate the lives and service of two fallen Toledo firefighters.
Stephen A. Machcinski, 42, and James Dickman, 31, died Sunday due to injuries they had sustained while searching for potential survivors and battling a blaze at a Toledo apartment. Public memorial services were held Thursday evening in the SeaGate Centre in downtown Toledo.
“As the chief of the fire division, it makes you anxious in thinking about the potential of this happening to one of your own,” Fostoria Fire Chief Keith Loreno said. “It makes you appreciate what you have and who you’re with a lot more.
“If any civilian had attended (the ceremony), they would be absolutely inspired by how close the brotherhood in fire services really is.”
Loreno, former Fostoria Fire Chief Russ Rife, Cpt. Warren Digby, Lt. Brian Herbert, and firefighters Jason Distel, Mark Cassidy, Joe Gill and Randy Rubel attended the 2-hour memorial service for Machcinski and Dickman.
“It was a sobering experience because it was so close to home,” said Gill, whose uncle is a fire captain in Toledo. “I don’t know what to say; I mean, it’s just so sad to see stuff like that happen.”
Other Fostoria firefighters, as well as Loreno, agreed that at times like these, it’s difficult to find the right words to describe how anyone is feeling.
“There’s not a whole lot of conversation,” Loreno said. “It’s difficult because you always have that realization that this could’ve been one of the guys you work with. You’re in awe of the event that’s happened and you’re trying to hold back your own tears.”
Loreno said the most touching thing he remembers from the service was the words and the actions of the two firefighters’ family members. Both families expressed their gratitude, support and caring feelings towards the Toledo firefighters.
According to Loreno, because Machcinski did not have a wife or children, his parents gave all of his memorial donations to Dickman’s wife and two children.
“(Dickman’s) wife was sitting there with a one-month-old child who was crying during the services,” he said. “I don’t care how tough a guy you are, that’ll bring tears to your eyes.”
Authorities announced Friday that the owner of the apartment building, Ray Abou-Arab, was arrested and charged with aggravated arson and aggravated murder, after at least one witness said he entered the garage for more than a minute prior to the fire starting (see story below). The fire started immediately after Abou-Arab left.
Autopsies released this week showed that Machcinski and Dickman died from burns and carbon monoxide.
Dickman was appointed to the department in September of 2013, while Machcinski had more than 15 years of service.
Both families accepted the International Association of Firefighters medal of honor, according to published reports.
Loreno described the ceremony as “humbling” and “somber,” seeing American flags draped across the caskets of both men as authorities from various fire departments, officials from the Toledo area and family members recalled their many memories of the two fallen firefighters.
Traditional service melodies were played and sung by various musical groups throughout the memorial, according to Loreno.
“When you hear that music being played, in this scenario, you can’t help but become emotional about it,” he said. “It was one of those ceremonies that it hits you right in your heart. It’s one of those unique, down deep in your soul ceremonies. Toledo did a wonderful job in honoring those two individuals.”
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