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Funeral, fund established for fallen firefighter

Joyce Craig, the city's first female firefighter to die on duty, left behind a baby daughter and teenage son.

Lt. Hutchins holds a plaque and a photo on Tuesday Dec. 9, 2014, of fallen firefighter Joyce Craig, who died in a house fire in West Oak Lane. (For the Daily News/ Joseph Kaczmarek)
Lt. Hutchins holds a plaque and a photo on Tuesday Dec. 9, 2014, of fallen firefighter Joyce Craig, who died in a house fire in West Oak Lane. (For the Daily News/ Joseph Kaczmarek)Read moreJoseph Kaczmarek

JOYCE CRAIG, who became the first female firefighter to die on duty in Philadelphia when she got trapped in a basement fire and perished early Tuesday, will be laid to rest Saturday morning.

Well-wishers will have several opportunities to pay their respects:

*  Viewings are scheduled at Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services, 7112 N. Broad St., from 6 to 9 p.m. tomorrow and again from 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday.

* A funeral service is set for 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, also at Batchelor Brothers. Burial will follow in Ivy Hill Cemetery, 1201 Easton Road.

Craig, 36, an 11-year veteran and mother of two, died after she got trapped in a hellacious, overnight cellar fire in a two-story brick rowhouse on Middleton Street near Woolston Avenue in West Oak Lane. (In initial information, her last name was hyphenated, but the Fire Department last night issued an updated news release changing it.)

When she didn't emerge from the inferno after supervisors ordered firefighters to retreat, her colleagues went in after her and found her in the first floor, said Joe Schulle, president of Local 22, the union representing the city's firefighters and paramedics. She was declared dead shortly after at Albert Einstein Medical Center.

Investigators have not yet released details on the fire's cause or Craig's cause of death.

Schulle said the fire marshal could take weeks to months to finish his report into the tragedy, because investigators have sent her gear to be tested for possible malfunctions and must interview everyone at the fire scene.

Fire spokesman Executive Chief Clifford Gilliam didn't return several calls for comment.

The union has established a fund to support Craig's children, 16-year-old Mehki Donte Green and 16-month-old Laylani Lewis. Checks may be written and mailed to The Local 22 Joyce Craig Memorial Fund, c/o the Philadelphia Police and Fire Credit Union, 901 Arch St., Philadelphia, PA 19107.

"It's starting to set in that we lost a member, and they're trying to adjust. It's really particularly difficult for the men and women on the fire ground," Schulle said. "We have lost a dear friend and a great firefighter. Joyce made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting the citizens of Philadelphia. It's our hope that people will open their hearts and checkbooks to help support her two beloved children she's left behind. The men and women of Local 22 greatly appreciate the incredible outpouring of support we have received from the public during this extremely difficult time."

Fire Department brass have forbidden members from talking about their fallen comrade.

But Ed Marks, a retired battalion chief who oversaw her training at the Fire Academy, had plenty of nice things to say about her. As a woman in a male-saturated profession, she needed no kid gloves to fit in and excel at her job, he said.

"She was always a competent firefighter, whether she was driving in a safe manner or operating the pump to make sure her company got water when they needed it," Marks said. "From the day she walked in the station, she was always just accepted as one of the fellas."