Video source: Delaware Online
Wilmington: On Saturday, the community gathered to honor the two brave men who perished in last week’s blaze that authorities say was the work of arson.
A public ceremony was held at the Chase Center on the riverfront in Wilmington. The ceremony started at noon with some street closures. Hundreds of emergency responder vehicles was staged throughout the river front area.
In attendance was thousands of firemen from across the country. From Washington state to as far south as Florida, and as far north as Vermont. They all showed for one reason – to honor two of Wilmington’s heroes, LT. Christopher Leach and Jerry Fickes.
Also in attendance was Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill, and State Senator Coons, who presented several medals and awards to the families of LT. Christopher Leach and Jerry Fickes, including American flags that once flew over the U.S. Capitol.
A touching opening ceremony prayer, “Almighty and merciful god into that place of fire duty called”. The Reverend Brad Martin, Wilmington Fire Chaplain read.
The first speaker was Chief Anthony Goode as he fought back tears, he told the families, “we love you and we will always be here for you.” he reminded the families that they are not alone.
Vice President Joe Biden told the families, “Hold each other tight because when you do, they’ll be there.”
Thank you to everyone who made today so very special. I will reach out to thank you all personally over the next few weeks!
— Anthony S. Goode (@AnthonySGoode) October 2, 2016
There was several other speakers including those who worked with the two men.
During the ceremony, LT. Christopher Leach was promoted to Captain and Jerry Fickes was promoted to Lieutenant. They will be known as Cptn. Christopher Leach and LT. Jerry Fickes.
Just a day before, both men were laid to rest. Even though each had individual funeral services which was private, and for family and friends of the two families, and the Wilmington Fire Department, the joint service was held for all at the Chase center.
According to court documents, Fana-Ruiz told investigators she was drunk and on anxiety medication when she went to the basement to get her things. Instead, investigators say she confessed to lighting the fire in the basement.
Beatriz Fana-Ruiz is charged with two counts of first-degree murder; one count of first-degree arson; four counts of second-degree assault in the injuries of other firefighters involved; and seven counts of reckless endangerment, according to the state Fire Marshal’s Office.
Officials were able to charge her with first degree murder due to a Delaware law that covers first responders who lose their lives while serving due to the “reckless behavior” of an individual. The law originally only covered on-duty police officers, corrections employees and firefighters but was extended in 2009 to cover paramedics, EMTs, fire marshals and fire police officers after the death of Michelle Smith, a Delaware City firefighter who was sideswiped by a passing car and killed along U.S. 13.
Two other firefighters, Ardythe Hope and Brad Speakman remain hospitalized at Crozer Chester Medical Center.
In a recent press release, Wilmington Battalion Chief James Jobes said, “Speakman was upgraded to stable condition Wednesday and Hope remains in stable but critical condition”.