An apartment building owner was arrested for intentionally starting a fire that killed two Ohio firefighters. James Dickman, age 31, and Stephen Machinski, age 42, were killed on the line of duty on Sunday January 26. The building’s owner, Ray Abou-Arab, is now being charged in their deaths
When the blaze was set, there were seven people inside the building. The Toledo Fire Department responded to the scene and worked tirelessly to rescue all seven residents. However, the fire continued to spread. Fire Chief Luis Santiago said a “rapid deterioration of conditions” caused Dickman and Michinski to become disoriented.
Although their colleagues risked their lives to get them out of the building, both men suffered critical injuries. The firefighters were transported to Mercy St Vincent Medical Center, where they were both pronounced dead. Autopsies revealed both men died of carbon monoxide exposure and extensive burns.
In a joint effort, the scene was investigated by the Toledo Fire Department, the state fire marshal, and the US Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. The agencies concluded the fire was intentionally set by the building’s owner.
As reported by Toledo News Now, witnesses confirmed evidence found at the scene. According to documents filed at the Toledo Municipal Court, Abou-Arab was inside the building’s garage moments before the blaze began.
Tracy Bishop, who lived inside the building, said she heard the garage door open and close moments before the fire began. She said within minutes she “could see the flames coming through the ceiling.”
Authorities believe Abou-Arab doused the inside of the garage with a liquid accelerant and lit it on fire. He then left the garage, closed the door, and walked inside a market, which was in the same building. He was later pictured outside the building drinking a cup of coffee, while the firefighters were inside risking their lives.
The deaths of the Ohio firefighters gained national attention. On Thursday evening, thousands gathered at Toledo’s SeaGate Centre for a Last Alarm memorial service. Chief Santiago said he was humbled by the outpouring of support.
The Toledo Blade reports more than 5,000 people filled the convention center, including firefighters and law enforcement officials from across the nation. Toledo Battalion Chief John Kaminski said “there are no words that can express the sadness in our hearts.” However, he pointed out that although it was a somber occasion, it was also a “celebration of their life and service.”
The deaths of the Ohio firefighters were devastating for the entire community. However, the fact that the fire was intentionally set is even more disturbing. Building owner Ray Abou-Arab is charged with two counts of aggravated murder and arson.