Wilmington City Council approved a resolution to honor three fallen firefighters at the very location where they fought their last blaze to save lives.
The Canby Park rowhouse that gave way when an intense blaze burned through the structure in September 2016 could be turned into a permanent memorial. Wilmington Councilman Bob Williams said local firefighters expressed interest in the property at 1927 Lakeview Road after it went up for sheriff’s sale.
“We’re hoping that the current land owner sees things as they are with the loss of the three lives and that there’s some kind of donation or minimum monetary appraisal placed on this property so it can be properly restored and maintained as a memorial park,” Williams said. The resolution he introduced passed with 10 votes. Four council members were not present at Thursday’s council meeting.
The deaths of Lt. Christopher Leach, Senior Firefighter Jerry Fickes and Ardythe Hope who later succumb to her injuries after the blaze were the first deaths fatalities for the department in nearly 20 years. Brad Speakman was another firefighter injured in the fire, but he was treated and released from the hospital.
Wilmington fireman Tim Taggert, who’s also the Vice President of Local 1590 fears a similar incident could happen again because of city cuts.
“You can never get past a tragedy like this. We kind of hope that the city of Wilmington would not forget as fast as they already have. Just this past year they already cut 16 firefighters positions and have re-instituted the rolling bypass which is a bitter pill because the night of the fire the closest engine company, Engine 6 from 3rd & Union was closed and that makes a big impact on fighting fire and not only the public safety, but also fire fighters safety,” Taggert said.
An investigation into the fire revealed that it was intentionally started. 27-year-old Beatriz Fana-Ruiz who lived at the home was arrested and charged with murder, arson and other offenses in connection to the fire.