Woman Will Be Deported After Serving 30 Years For Causing Firefighters Deaths

Beatriz Fana-Ruiz, the woman who set fire to the home where she lived leading to the deaths of 3 Wilmington firefighters has been sentenced to 30 years in prison.

In September 2016, Fana-Ruiz, angry about her living situation and unhappy with her life, set a fire in the basement of the home where she was staying in the 1900 block of Lakeview Road in the Canby Park section of Wilmington. The fire quickly spread into the ceiling and weakened the floor joists.

Lt. Christopher Leach, Senior Firefighter Ardythe Hope died as a result of injuries they sustained when the first floor collapsed causing them to fall into the burning basement.

Firefighter Brad Speakman was also seriously injured when he also fell into the basement. Senior/Firefighter Jerry Fickes was killed as he tried to pull Lt. Leach from the fire and another portion of the ceiling collapsed onto him.

In August 2019, Fana-Ruiz pleaded guilty to Murder Second Degree, Arson First Degree, and Assault First Degree. A Superior Court Judge sentenced Fana-Ruiz to 30 years in prison, followed by 2 ½ years probation.

Additionally, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has filed a detainer against Fana-Ruiz, seeking her deportation to her home country of the Dominican Republic when released from custody in Delaware.

Special Agent Lisa Herb, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) provided essential investigative and expert analysis in determining the cause and origin of the fire and in interviewing Fana-Ruiz and obtaining her confession. Det. Joe Bucksner of the Wilmington Police Department was the lead investigator for the murder component of the case.

DOJ paralegal Jaime Prater assisted with the prosecution, and social workers Kristin Fluharty-Emory, Donna Lindsay and Jenn Kutney worked with the victims and victim’s families to provide counsel and guidance through this case that lasted over 3 years.


Official Report

On September 24, 2016, a 41-year-old lieutenant and a 51-year-old senior firefighter died due to a floor collapse in a row house at a structure fire. Two other firefighters were critically injured. One of the injured firefighters, a 48-year-old female died on December 1, 2016, due to injuries sustained from the collapse and exposure to fire in the basement. Another firefighter spent 40 days in a metropolitan hospital before being released. Two other firefighters received burns during fire ground operations and one firefighter sustained an ankle injury. All three were treated and released from the hospital on the same day.

At 0256 hours, Engine 1, Engine 5, Squad 4, Ladder 2, Battalion 2, and Battalion 1 were dispatched to a report of a residential structure fire with persons trapped. Ladder 2 arrived on-scene at 0301 hours and reported heavy fire showing from the rear of the structure. The Ladder 2 Officer requested a 4th engine be dispatched.

Engine 1 and Engine 5 arrived and both laid supply lines from different directions. Battalion 2 arrived on-scene and assumed Command. Crews from Engine 1, Engine 5, and Ladder 2 went to the front door and entered the 1st floor at approximately 0307 hours.

At approximately 0309 hours, the Ladder 2 Officer, a firefighter from Engine 1, and a firefighter from Engine 5 fell into the basement. At 0310 hours, a Mayday was transmitted for a floor collapse and firefighters in the basement. Firefighters were able to get the firefighter from Engine 1 (Engine 1B) out of the basement at 0318 hours. Crews were able to get the firefighter from Engine 5 (Engine 5B) to the base of an attic ladder placed in the basement.

Crews in the basement were also searching for the Ladder 2 Officer, plus firefighters were exiting and entering the basement. The injured firefighter from Engine 5 moved away from the attic ladder and crews were unable to locate her. Two firefighters from Squad 4 (Squad 4C and Squad 4D entered the basement from Side Charlie and found the lieutenant from Ladder 2 near the Side Alpha/Side Delta corner.

The two firefighters from Squad 4 pulled the Ladder 2 Officer toward the doorway on Side Charlie. They got 4 – 6 feet from the doorway when a second collapse of the 1st floor occurred at approximately 0320 hours.

One firefighter from Squad 4 (Squad 4C) and the lieutenant from Ladder 2 were covered by debris. Squad 4D was pushed toward the doorway and pulled out by a firefighter from Engine 5 (Engine 5C). Squad 4C was removed from the structure at 0329 hours.

He was transported to a trauma center and pronounced deceased. The firefighter from Engine 5 (Engine 5B) was located and removed from the structure at 0348 hours and transported by air ambulance to a trauma center and then a medical burn center. At 0430 hours, the Ladder 2 Officer was located in the debris pile and pronounced deceased by a paramedic. He was removed from the structure and transported to a trauma center. The fire was declared under control at 0550 hours.

This is a developing story.


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First State Update's Delaware editorial team covers New Castle County, Kent County and Sussex County breaking news, political news, and general news stories. We bring the reader the latest news from the Wilmington, Newark, Dover, Rehoboth Beach and all point in between. If you have news to share, email us at desk@firststateupdate.com.

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