A draft of the federal report that details the January, 2014, fire that killed two Toledo firefighters concludes numerous factors contributed to their deaths.
The 46-page report on the deaths of Pvts. Stephen Machcinski and James “Jamie” Dickman was compiled by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and took more than a year to complete. A draft of the report was obtained by The Blade and a final report is due out this week, sources said.
The report lists eight factors as contributing to the deaths: arson, risk assessment and scene size-up, resource deployment, fireground tactics, inadequate water supply, crew staffing, lack of a full-time safety officer, and no sprinkler system in the building. The report also makes 11 recommendations for departmental implementation, but does not go further than pinpointing those.
Mr. Machcinski, 42, and Mr. Dickman, 31, became trapped inside the burning two-story, six-unit apartment building at 528 Magnolia St. in North Toledo on Jan. 26, 2014. The two were pronounced dead at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, and an autopsy showed they died of burns and carbon-monoxide exposure. Mr. Machcinski had more than 15 years of service to the department, while Mr. Dickman was sworn into the department on Sept. 3, 2013.
A bulk of the report rehashes the fire, minute by minute, and describes the roles of many on-scene firefighters.
Jeff Romstadt, president of Toledo Firefighters Local 92, said the contributing factors and key recommendations “hadn’t really changed” between the draft and final versions, but there were still errors being fixed before the final report was made public. He said he hopes authorities follow through on the recommendations but declined to further comment until the final report is released.
Fire Chief Luis Santiago said he was unable to comment on the report because of a gag order. A Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge issued the order last year, prohibiting defense attorneys and prosecutors from making any public statements in the criminal case stemming from the fire.
Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson did not return telephone calls seeking comment Tuesday, and city spokesman Stacy Weber also cited the gag order and declined to comment. Ms. Weber said the gag order extends to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health report.
Ray Abou-Arab, 62, of Oregon, who owned the building, is accused of setting the fatal fire. He is charged with 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.
Officials allege that Mr. Abou-Arab started the fire in the garage of the apartment building. A June 29 hearing is set for Mr. Abou-Arab’s attorneys, Pete Rost and Sam Kaplan, to argue that the fire department investigators may have destroyed preliminary fire reports that suggested the blaze started in a kitchen inside the Magnolia Street apartment building rather than in the garage.
At a City Council meeting Tuesday, Councilman Lindsay Webb asked the Hicks-Hudson administration to hand over a copy of the report.
“A final draft has been made available to the administration and the family. I think this council needs to see that,” she said.
The report made 10 specific recommendations for improving safety at the scene of fires. It called for firefighters to conduct more extensive searches and risk assessments before entering burning buildings, update current research into fire department training, improve training for firefighters who operate water pumps, and ensure that all hoses are charged before firefighters take them into burning buildings.
The report also said incident commanders should have a stationary command post, designated by a special light, flag, or other symbol, to best coordinate the response to the fire. The incident commander also should use a “tactical worksheet” to keep track of the scene.
The report calls for fire companies to be staffed with an officer on the fireground. The report states that, at the Jan. 26, 2014 fire, there were two engine companies with firefighters who acted as company officers, but their experience was “minimal” because they’d been primarily assigned to emergency medical service runs. The report also notes about a third of the department’s firefighters assigned to field operations had less than two years of job experience.
The report also says an incident commander should assign a safety officer as early on in a fire as possible. The safety officer, the report states, is responsible for the safety and health of all personnel at the scene. The Toledo Fire Department uses “company officers” to act as on-scene safety officers. On Jan. 26, 2014, an officer from Engine 19 was the designated safety officer; they were assigned to the role at 2:59 p.m. when the fire was dispatched at 2:47 p.m. The first “Mayday” occurred at 3:03 p.m.
Staff writers Lauren Lindstrom and Ignazio Messina contributed to this report.