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3rd firefighter dies from Wilmington arson blaze

A third firefighter has died from injuries suffered in a September arson blaze in Wilmington.

A third firefighter has died from injuries suffered in a September arson blaze in Wilmington.

Wilmington fire officials said that Senior Firefighter Ardythe Hope, who was hospitalized in critical condition after the Sept. 24 rowhouse fire in which a floor collapsed, died Thursday.

"We love Ardy Hope and we will always remember her and maintain her honor," Wilmington Chief Anthony S. Goode said at a Friday news conference.

Two other firefighters who fell through the collapsed floor at the home on the 1900 block of Lakeview Road, Lt. Christopher Leach and Senior Firefighter Jerry Fickes, also died. Another firefighter was seriously injured but was released from the hospital last month.

A 27-year-old woman who lived at the home has been charged with murder, arson and other offenses in connection to the fire. Beatriz Fana-Ruiz, the daughter of the home's owner and the stepdaughter of the man's wife, was arrested a few days after the blaze.

Hope was the first female firefighter to be killed on duty in the Wilmington department's history, Goode said. She is the department's second black firefighter die on duty; the first was Goode's father, who suffered a heart attack after a water rescue incident in 1990.

Hope planned to retire in January and pursue a new career as a nurse, Goode said. She was in the final stages of completing her nursing degree and wanted a job "helping others in a different fashion," he said.

Goode said Hope had been raising three children on her own. Two are in high school and one is a young adult.

Public officials in Delaware and emergency responders from around the region and country have praised Hope's service and mourned the death of the 23-year veteran of the fire department.

"Today our hearts are broken as we mourn the loss of Senior Firefighter Ardythe Hope," Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams said in a statement. "There is no greater sacrifice than bravely risking your life to save the life of another."

The blaze was the first time Wilmington firefighters had died on duty in 18 years.