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2 firefighters dead, 4 firefighters injured in Wilmington house fire

Two firefighters died and four other firefighters were injured - with four children and another adult - after a blaze broke out at a Wilmington house early Saturday, authorities said.

In a late-morning news briefing near the fire scene, Wilmington Fire Chief Anthony Goode said Lt. Christopher Leach, 41, and firefighter Jerry Fickes, 51, died.

Salesianum School in Wilmington posted on Facebook that it will hold a prayer ceremony at 4 p.m. Saturday for the firefighters. Leach graduated from the high school, at  1801 N. Broom St., in 1994, the school noted.

Goode said four other firefighters were injured in the blaze, including two who suffered burns and were in stable but critical condition at Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Delaware County. One of the firefighters at Crozer is female, he said.

Two other firefighters who were injured have been released from Christiana Hospital in Newark, he said.

"This is a very tragic day for the Wilmington Fire Department," Goode said, adding: "All of our family is hurting significantly. The entire city is hurting significantly. I know I am."

The fire was reported at 2:54 a.m. at a rowhouse on the 1900 block of Lakeview Road. Goode said firefighters were met with heavy flames at the back of the building. People were inside the home, said Goode. He did not elaborate on their conditions.

Four children and one adult were transported to St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington for smoke inhalation, 6ABC reported.

Goode said that after firefighters went inside the house, the floor became "very soft and brittle" and began to collapse. Firefighters were met with "significant heat and flames" in the rowhouse, he said.

After the floor caved in, four firefighters fell through, including the two who died, he said.

One firefighter died at Christiana Hospital and one at the scene amid rubble, 6ABC said.

That firefighter was carried out of the home by other firefighters, his body draped in an American flag.

Goode said Leach, a 14-year veteran with the Fire Department, and Fickes, a 13-year veteran, leave behind children and families. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

The state Fire Marshal's Office is leading the investigation with assistance from the Wilmington Fire Department, Goode said. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is also assisting in the investigation, he said.

Inquirer staff writer Rebecca Heilweil contributed to this article.