By Derek Rosenfeld
Every fire department around the world has faced its share of hardships, from training injuries to apparatus collisions to a lack of basic funds. However, and without question, there is no more harrowing, despairing, and tragic situation a fire department can face than when one of its members dies in the line of duty. On January 24, 2016, the Toledo (OH) Fire Rescue Department (TFRD) suffered not just one but two line-of-duty deaths (LODDs) when its members Stephen Machcinski and James Dickman perished after the apartment in which they were working flashed over. The fire later was ruled arson and, as a result, building owner Ray Abou-Arab was sentenced to 20 years in prison for aggravated murder.
This horrific incident formed the basis of TFRD Battalion Chief Mike Benadum’s presentation “Double Line-of-Duty Deaths: Lessons Learned” at FDIC International on Tuesday afternoon.
“These line-of-duty deaths occurred on my fire department. I was the captain of training at the time, and was ultimately assigned to the internal investigation team by our fire chief,” Benadum said. “After our investigation was completed, I was assigned to create a detailed summary analysis of the event with a focus on lessons learned. This presentation is the result of that assignment. The presentation at FDIC will be the 100th time I have made the presentation.”
In this segment, Benadum offers this timeline of the initial response up through to the initial size-up of the incident:
“This presentation is extremely important to the fire service because it was a fire any department could respond to on any given day. What makes it important is the lessons learned. We believe the lessons learned at this fire are immediately actionable items that, if incorporated, could prevent a similar occurrence at another fire department.”
In this segment, Benadum talks about the tactics employed by the incident’s first-arriving crews as well as the nature and mechanics of the type of ventilation-limited fire that ultimately killed the two firefighters:
Benadum presented to his class the following local news footage of the initial response as the incident unfolded:
Below is a five-minute portion of the dispatch audio leading up to the Mayday call:
Benadum ended on a personal note regarding his FDIC experience. “This is at least my fifth or sixth time attending FDIC. I started attending in 2007, and I always look forward to the entire experience,” he said. “This is my absolute favorite training week of the year. I always learn so much at FDIC. I love the networking, the learning, the opening ceremony on Wednesday, and the overall sense of camaraderie. It always provides a tremendous recharge to my professional battery!