Honor Guard Jeffrey Koenigseker gives commands as firefighters stand at attention during the funeral procession for Toledo firefighter Stephen Machcinski as it passes by Station 5 in downtown Toledo.
THE BLADE/LORI KING
Screaming sirens broke the silence.
Spectators repositioned themselves on snow mounds.
Scores of firefighters lined each side of North Ontario Street between Monroe and Washington streets on Saturday. Waiting.
Engine 3, draped with black-and-purple bunting and carrying a flag-draped casket, turned right onto Ontario from Monroe.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view photos from the service.
Cameras snapped. Flags waved. A bell tolled.
Firefighters at attention. Right hands raised to their brows.
It was Pvt. Stephen Machcinski’s final salute.
The 15-year veteran of the Toledo Fire Department, with his crew member Pvt. James Dickman, died a week ago after he was trapped inside a burning two-story apartment building at 528 Magnolia St.
Private Dickman, 31, had fewer than six months on the job.
Men and women — most of whom probably never knew either firefighter — lined the procession route holding flags and signs.
Sherry Ruiz and her husband, Andy Ruiz, of Toledo had one of each.
The couple said they’ve attended each of the memorial events for the firefighters because “it’s our way of saying thanks,” Mrs. Ruiz said. “There’s not much that we can do, but we can be here.”
The couple said they were amazed and grateful that the men and women of the Toledo Fire Department were still going to work, still answering calls for service, still being professionals and helping the community.
“To me, these guys are heroes,” Mrs. Ruiz said, “but they’re still human. ... I can’t imagine all the emotions they're going through. Shock, sadness, anger.”
On Friday afternoon, Ray Abou-Arab, who owns the building where Privates Dickman and Machcinski suffered their fatal injuries, was arrested and charged with two counts each of aggravated murder and aggravated arson.
The 61-year-old Oregon man remained in the Lucas County jail on Saturday and is to be arraigned in Toledo Municipal Court on Monday morning.
“After hearing the news yesterday, it’s so sad because they didn’t have to die,” said Paulette Sroczynski of Toledo, who was waiting for the procession at Washington and Huron streets with her family. “I hope this never happens again.”
According to court documents, Mr. Abou-Arab is accused of going into the garage at 528 Magnolia and staying for about a minute.
After he left the garage to go to the adjacent carryout, Huron Market, a resident saw fire and called 911, investigators wrote in an affidavit.
Investigators reported finding an ignitable liquid in the garage.
Jessica Drouillard of Toledo waited for the procession with her mother, Anne, and friend Melanie Grosjean.
“My brother is a Toledo firefighter, so it’s important to be here,” she said, shrugging off the near-freezing temperatures and rain. “They [firefighters] come out in this weather.”
Ms. Grosjean said the trio made sure they were at Thursday’s final salute for Private Dickman too. They stationed themselves near the Anthony Wayne Bridge.
“That was very moving,” she said, adding that when motorists realized what was happening, they stopped their vehicles and got out.
Saturday’s events began with a 10 a.m. private prayer service at Walker Funeral Home for Private Machcinski.
The procession then made its way from West Toledo — east on West Sylvania Avenue, where it picked up those wishing to be part of the convoy at Franklin Park Mall, south on Monroe, right on Ontario, left on Washington, and right on Huron.
As the procession passed by Grace Lutheran Church, 4441 Monroe St., the bells began to sound.
The procession included fire trucks from Toledo and regional departments, local and regional police cars, private ambulance companies, and many private vehicles. It stopped at Erie Street Market, where a private lunch was hosted.
The prayer service and the drive through downtown lasted about three hours.