As bagpipers played under a calm gray sky, the Toledo Fire & Rescue Department honored fallen firefighters from throughout the force’s history during the department’s 57th annual Memorial Service on Monday morning.
About 60 community members gathered at Chubb DeWolfe Park, just across from department headquarters, to watch a series of speakers commemorate the 58 city firefighters lost in the line of duty since 1872. Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge Stacy Cook, who presided over the 2017 trial that resulted in a prison sentence for Ray Abou-Arab following the 2014 deaths of Toledo firefighters James Dickman and Stephen Machcinski, gave the keynote address.
WATCH: Toledo Fire honors two firefighters who lost lives last year
Judge Cook called the department’s firefighters “more than heroes” in her address.
“You simply go in with a heart and mind that caused you to commit to this profession, to this community, to all of us, and to give more than any of us not in your shoes could truly fathom,” she said.
Toledo Fire Chief Luis Santiago commemorated two firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty and had not previously been recognized by the department: Captain George S. Fraser, who died after falling from a hose tower at Fire Station 3 in 1887, and Captain Benn R. Miner, who died from a heart attack while on duty in 1949.
“Each one of those names represents a story,” Chief Santiago said. “It’s about the lives they lived and the contributors they were to the city and to this department.”
Chief Santiago then spoke about the long-term health consequences often faced by firefighters. Members of the force who suffer from “occupational illness” are seldom memorialized, he said, but deserve equal recognition.
Jeff Koenigseker, President of Toledo Firefighters Local 92, spoke about the safety measures Toledo Fire is taking to reduce long-term health risks. The department has purchased vapor-resistant gear, trained firefighters to wear self-contained breathing apparatuses during both fire response and overhaul procedures, mandated annual physicals for its force, and implemented a new gear dryer to keep gear free of toxic carcinogens, Mr. Koenigseker said.
In closing, retired battalion chief Renzo Maraldo read the names of the 18 Toledo Fire retirees who died in 2017.
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