There was one rookie who impressed veteran firefighter Stephen Machcinski.
The new guy on Engine 3 seemed all right — he had experience, an infectious and larger-than-life personality.
James Dickman appeared to be an all-around good guy and good firefighter.
“That was something Steve rarely did, talk about new guys,” Pvt. Jim Swartz said during a Thursday-night Last Alarm funeral service.
More than 5,000 people packed the downtown Toledo SeaGate Convention Centre for the two-hour ceremony, attended by hundreds of firefighters from across the country and Canada. Family, friends, and total strangers gathered to say what some might consider to be a long-overdue “Thank you.”
One man, prior to the 7 p.m. service, approached Battalion Chief John Kaminski and Private Swartz. He took their hands, shook them, and said, “Thank you.”
That’s all he wanted — to say thanks. Finally. After all this time. To not miss the opportunity again.
Private Machcinski, 42, and Private Dickman, 31, served together, living life in 24-hour shifts to do a job they loved.
On Sunday, at 2:47 p.m., the Toledo firefighters responded together, with numerous other firefighters, to 528 Magnolia St. in North Toledo to a burning two-story apartment building.
The conditions inside, where firefighters were searching for possible victims, worsened. Privates Machcinski and Dickman were stuck. Precious and terrifying minutes went by before either of the firefighters were rescued and carried out by their colleagues.
They were rushed to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, their brothers and sisters from the fire department following behind.
At the hospital, both firemen were pronounced dead.
What started the fire is still unclear and remains under investigation, officials said.
Just before 7 p.m. at SeaGate, a set of doors opened and the thousands of people in attendance fell silent and rose to their feet to welcome the families of Private Machcinski and Private Dickman.
As the families sat, Toledo Fire Chief Luis Santiago made what was likely the longest walk of his career — taking the few steps past the caskets, offering a slow and deliberate salute, and moving around Engine 13 and up to the stage.
The large convention center room was overwhelmed by the rhythmic sounds of drums and haunting bagpipes, a band made up of more than 75 musicians who, literally, came from coast to coast, representing fire departments in Los Angeles, Boston, and many in between.
The National Anthem was sung by Dan Desmond, vice president of Local 92, the firefighters’ union, and his son, Devon Desmond. The St. Francis de Sales High School choir performed several times throughout the ceremony.
Battalion Chief John Kaminski, the master of ceremonies, told the Machcinski and Dickman families, “There are no words to express the sadness and sorrow in our hearts for your loss.”
He pledged that the city was in safe hands Thursday night, thanks to help from fire departments in neighboring communities that stepped up to answer Toledo’s calls for service, allowing more Toledo firefighters to attend the ceremony.
Filling in for Toledo were firefighters from Maumee, Perrysburg, Rossford, Northwood, Oregon, Sylvania and Sylvania Township, and Washington Township.
Rossford and Sylvania Township fire crews were called to assist Toledo firefighters at a residential fire after 8 p.m. in the 3000 block of Collingwood Boulevard. No one was injured in the fire, which officials said started in the attic and burned through the roof.
The assisting departments were relieved of Toledo duties at about 9:50 p.m.
In addition to the thousands at the funeral services, it was broadcast live on WTVG, Channel 13, and WTOL, Channel 11. WNWO, Channel 24, aired the first hour of the service and then switched to regularly scheduled programming.