Monday, Wilmington Fire Chief Anthony Goode recounted the details of the events leading up to the deaths of two firefighters Saturday morning. 41-year-old Lieutenant Christopher Leach and 51-year-old Sr. Firefighter Jerry Fickes were killed responding to a house fire at 1927 Lakeview Road.
Firefighters responded to the house fire in Canby Park Saturday, September 24th, 2016, after receiving a call at 2:54 a.m.
"Units first on the scene received reports from the scene, on the street, that people were still trapped in the home," said Goode.
First responders didn't know the family had escaped before firefighters' arrival. Shortly after the firefighters entered the burning home, the first floor collapsed.
"They fell into the floor. Four individuals became trapped immediately. Others began to work on them. Trapped immediately--and who have succumbed to their injuries--are Lt. Christopher Leach," said Goode. "Lt. Leach was originally assigned to Engine 6, was working exchange for another officer that night and assigned to Ladder 2."
Goode said Sr. Firefighter Jerry Fickes tried to save Leach.
"Firefighter Fickes was joined by other members of Squad 4 and were attempting to rescue Lt. Leach at the time of a collapse, which also trapped him," said Goode.
Chief Goode said Sr. Firefighter Ardythe Hope and Firefighter Brad Speakman are in critical, but stable, condition at Crozer Medical Center after suffering injuries battling the same blaze that claimed the lives of their fallen brethren. He asked for prayers.
"It's a rough time for everybody, but we want to make sure the honor is given to those two that really deserve it," said Wilmington Firefighters Local 1590 President Bruce J. Schweiger Jr.
Schweiger said Leach and Fickes were great firemen and good friends.
"Jerry came on about a year ahead of me in the Academy. We actually graduated, we had our graduation ceremony together. Chris and I were real good friends. He's a great guy," said Schweiger.
Schweiger said family came first to the two men, then firefighting.
"Firefighting was everything to them. They both grew up in the volunteer system and continued that on. Chris came on and was just an absolute go-getter. Jerry just loved firefighting. I'm pretty sure every book in his locker was about firefighting," said Schweiger.
Schweiger asked the community to donate to the fallen firemen's families by visiting wilmingtonfirefighters.org.
"Anything you can give," said Schweiger. "It's really going to their families, who really need this and really need the support."
Goode asked anyone with information about the fire to call 302.576.3950.
"We are simply looking for information about the fire, anywhere or anybody that has it. So, that we can take and treat our families that have lost loved ones and who are injured with the common dignity and respect that heroes deserve," said Goode. "So, that we can give them all the factual information possible."
Goode said he asked the State Fire Marshal's Office to take the lead on this investigation, since he and his men are emotionally tied to it. ATF is assisting. Goode said the investigation is ongoing and wouldn't respond to questions.
Memorial services for the two fallen firefighters are tentatively scheduled for Saturday.