Two longtime firefighters were killed when a floor in a rowhouse collapsed during an intense fire early Saturday.
Four others were injured in what Chief Anthony Goode called “a very tragic day for the Wilmington Fire Department.” The incident is the first death of a city firefighter in almost two decades.
Those killed Saturday were identified as Lt. Christopher Leach, 41, a 14-year veteran, and Senior Firefighter Jerry Fickes, 51, a 13-year veteran.
Both men had children and families, Goode said at a press conference Saturday. He did not take follow-up questions.
Two firefighters also were transported to Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Upland, Pa., with critical injuries. Two others were treated at Christiana Hospital in Newark, Del.
The fire was reported at 2:54 a.m. ET at a Canby Park neighborhood of brick rowhouses.
Firefighters arrived to find heavy fire from the back of the building. At 3:14 a.m., one or more firefighters became trapped, officials said, and the first floor collapsed.
Dozens of firefighters responded and searched for the firefighters, who were in the basement, officials said. They also used ladders to access the upper story of the rowhouse, where the fire burned through the roof and sent flames and thick smoke into the night sky.
Goode said it’s not clear what caused the fire and the incident is under investigation. The residents of the home were able to escape.
“This is a tragic situation,” Wilmington Mayor Dennis P. Williams said. “My heart is heavy. So much pain right now.”
Missy Napier lived in the home with her five children.
“We ran out of the house with no clothes, in basically nothing,” she said between tears Saturday morning.
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SOURCE: USA Today; The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal, Esteban Parra, Karl Baker and Xerxes Wilson