One month after two Toledo firefighters were killed in the line duty at a North Toledo apartment fire, the community came together to honor them in two separate tributes Wednesday.
Cold and blustery weather did not stop about 25 residents from gathering at the corner of Magnolia and Huron streets at 6 p.m. for a prayer vigil for Pvts. Stephen Machcinski, 42, and James Dickman, 31.
PHOTO GALLERY: Fallen firefighters honored at vigils
It was organized by two women who lived in the apartment building but escaped the deadly fire. Tracy Bishop and Patricia Rollins lost everything in the blaze at 528 Magnolia St., but both wanted to do something to honor the firefighters.
“They came to rescue us and they lost their lives,” Ms. Rollins said.
The cold winter wind made it difficult to light tea candles encased in Styrofoam cups, but the group of mainly neighborhood residents waited patiently for Ms. Bishop and Ms. Rollins to begin.
There was a prayer from Pastor Patricia Smith and then the neighbors shared a song, “Oh How I Love Jesus.”
Evelyn Cranston’s 6-year-old grandson Jacob Ellsworth came dressed in a firefighter’s costume to support his Aunt Tracy.
“She [Ms. Bishop] is trying to get enough money together to get a place to live,” said Ms. Cranston. Both Ms. Bishop and Ms. Rollins said they are still struggling. They are grateful for the many donations they have received but both are still living with family and friends.
At the 30 minute vigil’s end, people took turns signing two posters with pictures of the fallen firefighters with such messages as “Rest in peace” and “God bless you.”
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The posters will be donated to the fire department to give to the two men’s families, Ms. Rollins said.
The firefighters were also remembered at the regular 5:30 p.m. Wednesday night Mass at the Historic Church of St. Patrick near downtown Toledo. The service marked the end of the one-month Catholic mourning period for Privates Machcinski and Dickman.
Mr. Machcinski, a 15-year veteran, and Mr. Dickman, who had fewer than six months of service in Toledo, were among many firefighters who responded to the Jan. 26 blaze. The two became trapped, but eventually were removed from the building by other firefighters. They were pronounced dead at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center and autopsies revealed they succumbed to burns and carbon monoxide exposure.
The building’s owner, Ray Abou-Arab, 61, of Oregon, remained in the Lucas County jail Wednesday in lieu of $5 million bond after pleading not guilty Tuesday to 13 charges related to the fire: two counts of aggravated murder, each with death-penalty specifications; two counts of murder; eight counts of aggravated arson, and one count of tampering with evidence.
The fire also left three other Toledo firefighters injured and displaced seven of the building’s tenants.