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Fire Marshal: Cause of blaze that killed firefighter 'undetermined'

After months of investigation, the Fire Marshal's Office has ruled the cause of the blaze that claimed the life of a city firefighter "undetermined."

In a release sent this afternoon, Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer said that the ruling comes after conducting "over 40 interviews as well as thoroughly inevstigating the scene for seven days."

The blaze broke out early Dec. 9 in the basement of a house on Middleton Street near Andrews Avenue in West Oak Lane. Lt. Joyce Craig became trapped in the home while fighting the fire and ultimately perished.

Craig, 37, was the first female firefighter to die in the line of duty in city history. The 11-year veteran left behind a son and a daughter.

Sawyer said the department will reopen its investigation into the fire's cause if any new information becomes available.

Veteran firefighters have described the fire to the Daily News  as "a perfect storm of things that went wrong," including:

  1. An inexperienced ladder crew took 18 minutes to respond.

  2. The team with whom Craig entered the rowhouse got separated, leaving her alone inside.

  3. Many of those on the scene were either young or recent transfers, including the firefighter assigned to fight the fire beside Craig.

The city Fire Marshal's Office, the Medical Examiner's Office and the federal National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are continuing their probe into the circumstances surrounding Craig's death.