Senior Firefighter Ardythe Hope is the third Wilmington firefighter to die following the Sept. 24 fire that was intentionally set.
Wilmington Fire Chief Anthony Goode announced Hope’s death Thursday night. She had been hospitalized in critical condition following the fire. The fire already claimed the life of Hope’s colleagues 41 year old Lieutenant Christopher Leach and 50 year old Senior Firefighter Jerry Fickes.
The fire began in a home on Lake View Drive, where several people were trapped inside. Four children and one adult were taken to St. Francis Hospital for smoke inhalation. The firefighters were fatally injured when the first floor of the home collapsed into the basement.
A 27-year-old woman who lived in the Canby Park rowhome that went up in flames was arrested just days after the fire and charged with setting the fire that has now claimed the life of three Wilmington firefighters.
The suspect’s name is 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 in an effort to urge the city to end the procedure of temporarily closing stations in an effort 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. While no connection to the deaths was proven, firefighters were outraged when Chief Goode reinstated the practice a couple weeks ago.