Del. woman gets 30 years in firefighters’ arson deaths, says she’s ‘no monster’

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Three firefighters died after the first floor collapsed, tumbling them into the burning basement. (City of Wilmington)

Three firefighters died after the first floor collapsed, tumbling them into the burning basement. (City of Wilmington)

The woman who intentionally started a fire that killed three Wilmington firefighters in September 2016 was sentenced to 30 years in prison today.

Beatriz Fana-Ruiz sobbed at the defense desk in a courtroom filled with more than 100 family, friends and comrades of the firefighters who were killed by the fire she set.

“I stand humbly before you today, humiliated by my actions,’’ she told Superior Court Judge Eric R. Davis while many in the audience wept. “I am no monster.”

Beatriz Fana-Ruiz received a 30-year prison sentence for fatal fire. (City of Wilmington/WHYY file)

Firefighters Christopher Leach, Ardythe Hope and Jerry Fickes were trying to put out the blaze when a floor collapsed, sending them tumbling into the basement of the home in Canby Park. Leach was found dead in the basement, Hope and Fickes were pulled out of the home only to die later.

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Fana-Ruiz told the court she was inebriated that night and “cannot recall’’ starting the blaze, but lives with the shame every day.

Authorities said Fana-Ruiz, now 30, confessed that she set the basement fire in the home where she lived with her family because she was unhappy with her living situation and her life.

She pleaded guilty to second-degree murder as well as first-degree arson and assault.

In addition to her prison time, immigration officials have filed a detainer against Fana-Ruiz, seeking to deport her to the Dominican Republic. That would occur after she is released from Delaware’s custody.

Prosecutor John Downs said outside court that a long sentence was appropriate but because she didn’t intend to hurt anyone, Fana-Ruiz should not spend the rest of her life behind bars.

“She intended to start the fire and it was in an occupied dwelling and a consequence of that could have been her family,’’ Downs told WHYY. “Could have been one of her neighbors. In this case it was the firefighters who paid the cost.”

Wilmington’s fire chaplain told the judge the deaths hit the department like a Category 5 hurricane and was their own “personal 9/11.”

Joe Leonetti Jr., president of Wilmington Firefighters Local 1590, spoke about how members have been dealing with the devastating loss.

“Our union is strong. Our family is strong,’’ Leonetti said. “The outcome today wouldn’t have changed what happened that terrible night. It won’t bring back our friends, our family members. We lost a sister and two brothers and it was difficult.”

Attorney General Kathleen Jennings also issued a written statement. “This horrific tragedy reminds us of the danger Delaware’s first responders knowingly and willingly put themselves in every day to protect us,’’ the statement said.

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