Two Toledo firefighters were killed in action Sunday afternoon, while responding to a call in an old apartment complex. Privates Stephen A. Machcinski, 42, and James Dickman, 31, sustained fatal injuries while battling the flames engulfing the massive two story building. It was the first time in just over 32 years that Toledo firefighters have been killed in action.
The last time a Toledo firefighter lost his life in the line of duty was May 19, 1981. Firefighter Donnie Cathcart died while fighting a fire in the central part of Toledo. That fire also claimed the life of an infant. The Toledo Fire Department has been in existence for 177 years. During that time there have been 48 deaths in the department.
Toledo Fire Chief Luis Santiago held a press conference to report the death of the two firefighters on Sunday night. It was a very heavy and somber scene as firefighters gathered to hear about the passing of their two partners and friends. He described the two firefighters as “valiant” and that the rest of the responders courageously attempted to save their lives. Unfortunately, the injuries sustained had already taken the lives of Machcinski and Dickman.
The two firefighters had very different levels of experience with the Toledo fire department. Private Machcinski was a 15 year veteran with the department. Private Dickman had just been sworn into service in September. He was yet to have his graduation ceremony with the other 50 recruits who were sworn into the Toledo fire department with him.
Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins joined Chief Santiago at the press conference. Visibly affected by the tragic loss of the two firefighters, Collins honored all civil service workers. He stated that police officers and firefighters deaths are different because they run into danger, not away from it. Mayor Collins also called on the city to fly their flags at half mast for the entire day Monday.
No civilians were killed in the 137-year-old apartment fire. There were seven residents in the building as well as several commercial tenants. The American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio helped the residents, and some who affected in a nearby structure, find housing Sunday night.
Dan Desmond, Toledo Firefighters Local 92 Vice President, described the mood of the department as “numb”. The firefighting community is a strong one and any loss of one of its members is sure to be an opportunity to reflect on the seriousness of their duties. No timetable has been set for the honoring of Privates Machcinski and Dickman, but details will be coming soon. Chief Santiago also said that a full investigation into the deaths of his men will be performed.