A public memorial service for the two Wilmington firefighters who died after a floor collapsed in a home that was heavily engulfed in flames last weekend took place Saturday afternoon at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington.

Vice President Joe Biden, who visited the fire scene last weekend, is among those who spoke. Thousands were expected to attend, including hundreds of firefighters from across the country, according to the Wilmington News Journal.

Lt. Christopher Leach, 41, a 14-year veteran of the Wilmington Fire Department, and Senior Firefighter Jerry Fickes, 51, a 13-year veteran of the department, died last Saturday morning after the first floor of a two-story brick rowhouse on the 1900 block of Lakeview Road collapsed. The fire was reported at 2:54 a.m.

Two other firefighters, Ardythe Hope and Brad Speakman, suffered critical burns and remain hospitalized at Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Upland, Pa., in critical, but stable condition, a hospital spokeswoman said Saturday afternoon.

Two additional firefighters suffered burns on their arms and were treated and released the day of the fire from Christiana Hospital in Newark, Del.


On Thursday, the Delaware State Fire Marshal's Office and the Wilmington Police Department charged a 27-year-old woman, Beatriz Fana-Ruiz, who lived in the house with two counts of first-degree murder, first-degree arson, assault charges and seven counts of reckless endangerment.

Fana-Ruiz is the daughter of the owner of the house and the stepdaughter of the man's wife. She told agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that she had been angry and had gone into the basement of the house, started a fire, then fled from the basement.

Investigators with the ATF and the Delaware State Fire Marshal's Office determined Fana-Ruiz intentionally set the fire by igniting flammable or combustible material with an open flame, court documents said.

Missy Napier, who lived in the house with her five children, ages 10 to 17, told the Wilmington News Journal on the day of the blaze that she, her children and another child were sleeping and awoke to find smoke. After her children were rousted from sleep, they managed to escape out the back of the house. The newspaper has identified Fana-Ruiz as Napier's stepdaughter.

Leach and Fickes were the first Wilmington firefighters to die on duty in 18 years. They were laid to rest in funeral services Friday.