Rapidly deteriorating conditions led to deaths of 2 firefighters, officials say

Support for department pours in from across country, Canada

1/27/2014
BLADE STAFF
The sign on the union hall of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 92 in downtown Toledo.
The sign on the union hall of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 92 in downtown Toledo.

A “rapid deterioration of conditions” led to the deaths of two Toledo firefighters as they battled a North Toledo apartment complex fire Sunday, said Fire Chief Luis Santiago.

He addressed a news conference today where Mayor D. Michael Collins also spoke.

Chief Santiago said no official cause for the fire at 528 Magnolia St. has been determined, and an investigation continues.

The city is waiting to hear from the two families regarding a funeral, and the fire department is ready to give honors funerals.

Stephen Machcinski, left, and James Dickman.
Stephen Machcinski, left, and James Dickman.

James Dickman, 31, had a wife and two children, and Stephen Machcinski, 42, is survived by his parents and a brother, Chief Santiago said.

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An outpouring of support and emotion has flooded in from social media sites, residents, and fellow firefighters.

About a dozen firefighters from Sandusky and Perkins Township arrived at the scene of the fatal fire just after 1 p.m. today.

Craig Caprara, a firefighter from Norwalk, Ohio who previously worked with Private Dickman in Perkins Township, placed a set of firefighter's gloves and a township department shirt at the scene.

The firefighters from the different departments - including a former commanding officer of Private Dickman - were visibly upset and declined to comment.

Investigators from the Toledo Fire Department and the state fire marshal sorted through the charred building.

The building at 548 Huron Street, site of a fire which took the lives of two Toledo Fire Department firefighters and made seven people homeless, sits surrounded by fresh snow today.
The building at 548 Huron Street, site of a fire which took the lives of two Toledo Fire Department firefighters and made seven people homeless, sits surrounded by fresh snow today.

Investigators wearing gear identifying them as Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives agents were also seen entering the building. TARTA dispatched an out-of-service bus to the scene to be used as a warming station, apparently for investigators.

Toledo police officers were on guard at the fire scene overnight on Sunday and will stay there “until we can determine the cause of the fire,” said police Sgt. Joe Heffernan.

Sergeant Heffernan said the police department will do “whatever they need. However we can assist, that's what we're doing to do.”

Mayor Collins asked that, starting at 8 a.m. today, flags around the community be flown at half-staff out of respect for firefighters and their families.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich ordered flags flown at all public buildings in Lucas County to be lowered to half-staff until sundown today in honor of the two firefighters who died Sunday.

Toledo Police Chief William Moton issued a statement today regarding the fire department's loss.

"Oh behalf of the entire Toledo Police Department, l would like to send our thoughts and prayers out to the family, loved ones and fellow firefighters of the two heroes that tragically lost their lives yesterday.

"We work hand-in-hand with the members of TFD and when tragedy strikes, it affects us as well. Even though there is plenty of good-natured ribbing between us, the safety forces in our city stand as one and we feel their pain and sorrow.

"l have committed every resource available to help our brothers and sisters serving in the Toledo Fire and Rescue Department to try and get past this horrible tragedy."

In addition to condolences from within and around Toledo, support for the Toledo Fire Department has come in from across the globe.

Deputy Toledo Fire Chief Brian Byrd, acting Deputy Chief Richard Syroka, and Battalion Chief John Kaminski lower the U.S. flag to half staff, and raise a funeral flag, at Toledo Fire and Rescue headquarters on North Huron Street,  early today in honor of firefighters Stephen A. Machcinski and James A. Dickman who were killed Sunday.
Deputy Toledo Fire Chief Brian Byrd, acting Deputy Chief Richard Syroka, and Battalion Chief John Kaminski lower the U.S. flag to half staff, and raise a funeral flag, at Toledo Fire and Rescue headquarters on North Huron Street, early today in honor of firefighters Stephen A. Machcinski and James A. Dickman who were killed Sunday.

Outreach on social media — primarily Facebook and Twitter — has taken over the Toledo Fire and Rescue Department's Faceboook page with prayers, thoughts, and tribute photos to the two firefighters who died in the line of duty on Sunday.

"The outpouring is humbling," Lieutenant Hertzfeld said.

Private Dickman had fewer than six months on the job; Private Machcinski had more than 15 years, fire officials said.

Hundreds of local Facebook and Twitter profile photos have been changed to the Toledo Fire Department logo with a black bar across it to show the loss and support.

A Facebook page created Sunday night — "Toledo Fire & Rescue Last Alarm 1/26/2014" — has more than 36,000 "likes" and thousands of well-wishes for the Toledo Fire Department and community, including from other firefighters.

"The members of the Fairfield Fire Fighters Local 1426 offer our thoughts and prayers at this difficult time. We are truly sorry for your loss," wrote firefighters from Fairfield, Conn.

Another effort to cook meals for all of the city's firefighters is underway on Facebook called Feed Our Toledo Firefighters.

Jamie Armstrong, of Holland, is spearheading the potluck effort.

"It's just how terrible of a loss it was for the community," Ms. Armstrong said. " ... When anybody loses somebody and you're grieving, neighbors bring dishes and help you through the loss. Wouldn't it be great as a community if we could do the same thing but do it for the Toledo firefighters?"

Ms. Armstrong said anyone who wants to sign up to take food to a station can go to perfectpotluck.com and sign up for a main dish, dessert, side dish, or beverage. Once on the site, search for "Armstrong" and use the password 012614. Ms. Armstrong hopes all stations will have dinner covered today. If the effort is successful, she will set up potlucks for the rest of the week.

"It's one less thing they have to worry about, cooking," Ms. Armstrong said. "It's the community taking care of them since they're always taking care of us."

A multi-agency news conference with the Lucas County Emergency Management Agency to discuss the propane shortage today was canceled because of the deaths.

“We don't want to take away from the tragedy that has happened,” said Stacy DeBruyne, spokesman for the county agency.

Doug Stern, communications director for the Ohio chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters, was in Orlando for a firefighters conference today, but planned to be in Toledo by 8 p.m. today to help the local fire union, he said.