Since the day two Toledo firefighters died in the line of duty, northwest Ohio residents and business owners have stepped up, doing what they can to honor the fallen, support their families, and keep memories alive.
More than a week after Pvt. Stephen Machcinski, 42, and Pvt. James Dickman, 31, died after fighting a fire at 528 Magnolia St., offers of support and fund-raising efforts continue.
“The ultimate goal here is to help the families,” Toledo Fire Department Lt. Matthew Hertzfeld said.
The goal is in keeping their memory and sacrifice alive “and making sure that’s a strong memory,” he said.
“All these benefits, all these offers of help, make it easy to extend that memory and strengthen that memory so that we’ll never forget these guys,” Lieutenant Hertzfeld said.
Private Machcinski, a 15-year veteran, and Private Dickman, who had fewer than six months of service, were among many firefighters who responded to a North Toledo apartment fire Jan. 26. The two became trapped, but eventually were removed from the building by other firefighters. The two were pronounced dead at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center; they died of burns and exposure to carbon monoxide.
The building’s owner, Ray Abou-Arab, 61, of Oregon, is being held in the Lucas County jail in lieu of $5 million bond on two counts each of aggravated arson and aggravated murder.
Lieutenant Hertzfeld said fire operations have continued as usual, despite the loss. From Jan. 26 to Sunday, the department responded to more than 1,280 calls for service, which includes 172 fire runs and 11 structure fires.
“Our folks, our firefighters are going to continue to make a difference every day,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we’re not hurting. It doesn’t mean we’re not sad. They’re professional firefighters and they’re going to do what they’re trained to do. What they said they’d do in that oath.
“I know a lot of them are proud about that and it makes me proud to be associated with such a fine group of people like that.”
On Monday, when PizzaPapalis is normally closed, the restaurant will open its doors from 5 to 9 p.m. for a one-night “Fill the Boot” fund-raiser, Tom Stegeman, one of the restaurant’s three owners, said.
One of the restaurant’s longtime employees is now a Toledo firefighter. “It hits somewhat close to home for us,” Mr. Stegeman said.
Mr. Stegeman said the Toledo Fire and Rescue Foundation fund-raising effort will be for dine-in and carryout orders. Stand-alone donations can be made.
Starting today, a “Toledo Strong” T-shirt will be available through JupMode on www.jupmode.com. The navy-and-white shirt is $20; all proceeds go to the Toledo Fire and Rescue Foundation, John Amato, owner of the shirt company, said.
“I’m not connected in any way, but this story is absolutely devastating to me,” Mr. Amato said. “I think a lot of people have the same reaction. … These are guys who are a part of your everyday life that you take for granted and then all of a sudden, something happens like this and you realize how dangerous their job is.”
Last week, at various schools across Toledo, students found ways to salute the Toledo Fire Department.
Students made cards and drew pictures for firefighters, many of which were delivered to stations near various schools, Patty Mazur, Toledo Public Schools spokesman, said.
A five-minute video featuring students from Riverside Elementary is posted on the district’s Facebook page. The post cautions viewers to have a tissue in hand before watching.
In the video, one girl says, “When I grow up, I want to be a firefighter and save lives like you.”
Several schools had fund-raisers and raised approximately $1,400 for the Dickman Family Fund, Ms. Mazur said.
“It was a way for TPS to show support of our community. The community has been supportive of us, and we have a lot of grads on the department right now,” Ms. Mazur said. “The firefighters come to the schools not only for the fire drills, but some come and speak at our career days.”
Other tributes and fund-raisers:
● Private Machcinski and Private Dickman will be honored Friday at Whitmer High School, 5601 Clegg Dr., about 7:30 p.m., prior to the varsity basketball game. A flag in the field house will be dedicated to Private Machcinski, a 1989 Whitmer graduate. A check for the Dickman Family Fund will be presented to Acting Deputy Chief Rick Syroka. Admission to the game is free for all firefighters.
● Monday through Thursday, anyone who mentions “dine to donate” for the fallen firefighters at Granite City Food & Brewery, Shops at Fallen Timbers, Maumee, will have 10 percent of his or her bill donated to the Toledo Fire and Rescue Foundation.
● Donations to the Dickman Family Fund can be made at any PNC Bank.
● Donations to the Toledo Fire and Rescue Foundation can be made at toledofireandrescue.com.