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Memorial service today for Wilmington firefighter Ardythe Hope

Wilmington Senior Firefighter Ardythe Hope, who died Dec. 1 after succumbing to injuries from a September rowhouse arson blaze, will be remembered at a memorial service on Saturday.

A public viewing will take place from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Chase Center on the Riverfront, 815 Justison St. in Wilmington, followed by a 1 p.m. service.

Hope, 48, was the third firefighter to die from the 2:54 a.m. Sept. 24 blaze on the 1900 block of Lakeview Road. 

Lt. Christopher Leach, 41, and Senior Firefighter Jerry Fickes, 51, died that morning after the first floor of the house, which was heavily engulfed in smoke and flames, collapsed. Both men had also been honored at the Chase Center and were posthumously promoted.

Hope, a mother of three, was the first female firefighter to be killed on duty in the Wilmington department's history, Wilmington Fire Chief Anthony Goode has said. She had planned to retire in January and pursue a new career as a nurse.

She and another firefighter, Brad Speakman, were critically injured and hospitalized at Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Upland, Pa. Speakman was released from the hospital last month.

A 27-year-old woman, who lived in the rowhouse, was arrested and charged a few days later with murder and arson. Beatriz Fana-Ruiz is the daughter of the owner of the house and the stepdaughter of the man's wife, authorities have said.

Hope is the department's second black firefighter to die on duty; the first was Goode's father, who suffered a heart attack after a water-rescue incident in 1990.

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