TOLEDO — Caskets covered by American flags sat before a crowd of several thousand as two Toledo firefighters who died while battling an apartment blaze were praised Thursday for embracing a profession in which they ran toward danger instead of away from it.
Firefighters from Ohio and around the nation gathered inside Toledo's downtown convention center to celebrate the lives and service of Stephen Machcinski and James Dickman, who died fighting a blaze inside a six-unit apartment building on Sunday.
"They deserve, and rightfully so, the title of heroes," said Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins, a former police officer.
Radio calls from the scene of the fire indicated that the pair faced rapidly deteriorating conditions once inside the burning apartment building near downtown. Firefighters found them inside, carried them out and tried unsuccessfully to save them.
Investigators have not released a cause for the fire or details about what led to the deaths. Autopsies released this week showed that Machcinski and Dickman died from burns and carbon monoxide.
At the memorial service, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown hailed Machcinski , 42, and Dickman, 31, as men of integrity who loved their families and took pride in their work.
Machcinski had been a firefighter for 16 years. Dickman was on the job for six months and had previously been with the Perkins Township fire department near Sandusky.
Friends said Dickman joined the Toledo department because it was his dream to work with a big city department.
A funeral will be held for Dickman on Friday afternoon in Sandusky. The funeral for Machcinski will be Saturday morning in Toledo.