A fire that killed two Wilmington firefighters and left others burned has been ruled an arson and a woman who lived in the home has been arrested on murder charges, the Wilmington Fire Department said.
Beatriz Fana-Ruiz, the 27-year-old daughter of the homeowner at 1927 Lakeview Road, was arrested without incident Thursday morning, said the state fire marshal. In earlier interviews with law enforcement she admitted to using an open flame to light the fire inside the basement of her family's home, said a criminal complaint.
The blaze left Wilmington Fire Lt. Christopher Leach, 41, and Wilmington Senior Firefighter Jerry Fickes, 51 dead. Leach, who was assigned to Ladder 2, and Fickes, who was assigned to Squad 4, were two of the several firefighters who responded to the fire at a row home in a development called Canby Park in Wilmington.
Fana-Ruiz was temporarily living in the home when it caught fire early Saturday, said the fire marshal.
Investigators said Fana-Ruiz told them she went down to the basement to retrieve some items. Initially she told investigators she didn't remember what happened next because she was drunk and on anxiety medication, said the criminal complaint. Two people in the home saw Fana-Ruiz go to the basement shortly before the fire broke out.
Fana-Ruiz faces two counts of 1st-degree murder for the firefighters' deaths. She also faces four counts of assault for injuries sustained by Lt. John Cawthray, Senior Firefighter Ardythe Hope, Senior Firefighter Terence Tate and Firefighter Brad Speakman.
The suspect also faces one count of arson and seven counts of reckless endangerment, said the fire department.
Local and federal investigators, including ATF officials, could be seen sorting through the rubble for clues in the days after the fire.
The news of an arrest comes as the community mourns the two fallen firefighters with viewings and funerals set to begin Thursday night with a public viewing for Fickes. Both funerals on Friday are private but a public memorial service is set for Saturday at the Chase Center on the Riverfront.
A judge arraigned Fana-Ruiz Thursday and sent her to New Castle County jail on $3 million bail.