WILMINGTON, Del. (WPVI) --The Wilmington Fire Department is mourning the loss of another colleague in the wake of September's arson in that city's Canby Park section.
Ardythe Hope, a 23-year veteran of the department, died Thursday, 68 days after being critically injured.
"I was with the family in the hospital last night during Ardythe's final moments," a tearful Wilmington Fire Chief Anthony Goode told reporter Friday morning. "I love that family. And I appreciate and respect the ability to be there."
Hope was the third firefighter to die as a result of that blaze.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
Hope had been in the Crozer Burn Center for more than two months, fighting to recover from severe burns she suffered while battling a house fire on Sept. 24.
"I really thought that she was going to pull through. I thought everything would be OK," said Derrick Edmond, Hope's boyfriend.
Edmond told Action News he and her family, including three daughters, were with Hope in her final moments.
"We actually got to say our goodbyes to her, each individual got to hug her, kiss her," said Edmond.
"It hasn't really hit me yet, I just don't believe it right now. I'm still kind of in shock," said Shannon Winnington, family friend.
Shannin Winnington plays basketball with Hope's middle daughter, Lexi.
Their parents were close friends.
"We all prayed with Lexi and encouraged her. We've all been encouraging ever since it happened," said Joan Winnington, family friend.
"Ardy's been in our thoughts and prayers for the past 40-something days, and to hear this is just tragic," said Bruce Schweiger, union president, Wilmington Firefighters Association.
The September blaze is the deadliest in the department's history, killing Capt. Christopher Leach and Lt. Jerry Fickes, and injuring Firefighter Brad Speakman.
Speakman left Crozer Chester Medical Center on Nov. 3 after 41 days.
Wilmington Chief Goode tells Action News Hope, a 23-year-old veteran, was an outstanding firefighter and wonderful person.
"She just had a heart of gold, she loved life. You could tell she loved what she did. When she would talk about her job, she would be smiling, and it was stressful and what she did was very hard, and I consider her a hero," said Joan Winnington.
A hero the people served, but just mom and Ardy to her friends and family.
"We feel like she's in a better place, everything is good. Now it's just making sure that the family is OK," said Edmond.
Beatriz Fana-Ruiz, 28, of 1927 Lakeview Road, where the fire occurred, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, four counts of second-degree assault, seven counts of reckless endangerment and one count of first-degree arson.