- Associated Press - Friday, May 1, 2015

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - A panel in Toledo will review a federal report on the deaths of two firefighters in a suspected arson at an apartment house in the northwest Ohio city.

Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson told The Blade newspaper (https://bit.ly/1GMvwZS ) this week that she hadn’t read the 46-page report, but created the panel because she recognized a need for independent review. It consists of the city’s human resources director, its attorney, a council member and a former local emergency management agency official.

The report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health suggests a number of factors contributed to the firefighters’ deaths in the January 2014 blaze, including the risk assessment and inadequate water supply.

Toledo Firefighters Local 92 President Jeff Romstadt blamed Fire Chief Luis Santiago for contributing to the deaths of the two firefighters, Stephen Machcinski and James Dickman, and said that Santiago has had a flawed system for two years.

Romstadt said the elimination of a full-time safety officer in 2012 made working conditions for Toledo firefighters unsafe.

Hicks-Hudson could not say if she agrees with fire union officials that Santiago should be held accountable.

“I am not a firefighter and I think it would be irresponsible on my part to say at this point that someone will be held responsible or not because there are many factors that come into play,” Hicks-Hudson said.

Officials alleged that 62-year-old Ray Abou-Arab, who owned the building, started the fire. He is charged with aggravated murder and other counts. He pleaded not guilty.

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Information from: The Blade, https://www.toledoblade.com/

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