Woman charged with setting fire that killed firemen

WILMINGTON — Wilmington police say a 27-year-old woman has been charged with arson and murder for intentionally setting a fire that killed two Wilmington firefighters on Saturday.

Beatrice Fana-Ruiz, the daughter of the homeowner and a temporary resident, was arrested Thursday morning.

Beatrice Fana-Ruiz

Beatrice Fana-Ruiz

Lt. Christopher Leach and Senior Firefighter Jerry Fickes were killed on Saturday after the first floor of the burning rowhome at 1927 Lakeview Road, Canby Park, Wilmington, collapsed and trapped them in the basement.

There were seven people in the home when firefighters responded to the residence just before 3 a.m. Saturday, police said in court papers.

According to court documents, two people in the home said they said Ms. Fana-Ruiz enter the basement shortly before the fire was detected.

The document said Ms. Fana-Ruiz told police that she went to the basement to retrieve personal items “but could not remember anything else because she was drunk and on anxiety medication.”

Police said the woman told them she started the fire in the basement and fled.

Wilmington Police charged Ms. Fana-Ruiz with two counts of first degree murder causing the death of a firefighter; two counts of first degree assault causing serious injury to a firefighter, two counts of second degree assault causing injury to a firefighter; first-degree arson; and seven counts of reckless endangering.

Magistrate Court Judge James R. Hanby ordered her held on $3 million bail.

Two other firefighters remain hospitalized. Wilmington Battalion Chief James Jobes says Brad Speakman was upgraded to stable condition Wednesday and is able to walk down the hallway at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. Jobes says Ardythe Hope remains in critical but stable condition.

Private funerals for the firefighters are being held today.

A joint memorial service for the firefighters, which is open to the public and expected to draw firefighters from throughout the state, is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at the Chase Center on the Riverfront.

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