A fire on Sept. 24th claimed the life of a third Wilmington firefighter on Thursday.
Senior Firefighter Ardythe Hope died of injuries suffered when a floor collapsed in a burning townhouse.
“Today our hearts are broken as we mourn the loss of Senior Firefighter Ardythe Hope. There is no greater sacrifice than bravely risking your life to save the life of another. Firefighter Hope did just that on September 24th. On behalf of the City of Wilmington, I offer my deepest condolences to firefighter Hope’s family, children, friends, loved ones, and fellow brothers and sisters of the Wilmington Fire Department,” said Wilmington Mayor Dennis William. “While our hearts are heavy, our resolve to honor firefighter Hope remains strong. On that fateful day, Wilmington lost three firefighters in the line of duty as they courageously faced that tragic fire. May we never forget how they proudly served our city, and may we pay tribute to how they gave the ultimate sacrifice for their fellow man.”
Christopher Leach and Jerry Fickes were the two fighters who died in the blaze.
The fire began in a home on Lake View Drive on the southwest edge of the city. Four children and one adult were taken to St. Francis Hospital for smoke inhalation.
A 27-year-old woman who lived in the Canby Park townhouse that went up in flames was arrested just days after the fire and charged with setting the blaze. She was identified as Beatriz Fana-Ruiz. She is the daughter of the home’s owner.
According to a Wilmington Fire Department release, Fana-Ruiz was charged with murder, four counts of assault, arson and reckless endangering.
Earlier this week, members of the IAFF Local 1590 union representing Wilmington Firefighters pointed to the September fatal fire to urge the city to end the procedure of temporarily closing stations to reduce overtime costs.
The fire department had suspended the practice of shutting down engines after the September fatal fire. The engine closest to the burning building was suspended that day.
No tie between the idled fire engine and the fire fatalities has been established. However, firefighters were upset when the practice was recently reinstated as a way to cut overtime costs.
(WHYY Newsworks contributed to this story)