ATF joins investigation into blaze that killed firefighter

"She had a strong worth ethic," said Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer. "She prided herself on working at busy fire companies."

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Thursday, December 11, 2014
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A memorial fund has been set up for the children of the fallen firefighter.

WEST OAK LANE (WPVI) -- Federal investigators from the ATF have joined the Philadelphia fire marshal in the investigation into the Tuesday fire that killed firefighter Joyce Craig.

On Tuesday investigators ventured inside the scorched basement of 1655 Middletown Street in West Oak Lane. They know that's where the fire started, but still don't know why.

And they know Craig hit her distress mayday, but still don't know why she became trapped.

Meanwhile, a memorial fund has been established for Craig's two surviving children, ages 16-years-old and 16-months-old.

Checks can be made payable to the "Local 22-Joyce Craig Memorial Fund" and mailed to 901 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107.

Funeral arrangements for Joyce Craig were also announced on Wednesday.

The services are as follow:

Viewing (First)

Friday, December 12, 2014

6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services

7112 North Broad Street - Philadelphia, PA 19126

Viewing (Second)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m

Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services

7112 North Broad Street - Philadelphia, PA 19126

Service

Saturday, December 13, 2014

10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m

Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services

7112 North Broad Street - Philadelphia, PA 19126

Interment

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Immediately following the service

Ivy Hill Cemetery

1202 Easton Road, Philadelphia, PA 19150

Outside Engine 64 in the Lawncrest section of the city Tuesday night, a community prayed for the firehouse and its fallen firefighter.

Craig, 36, was a decorated 11-year veteran and is the Philadelphia Fire Department's first female firefighter to be killed in the line of duty.

"She tried her best to do what she thought, just trying to be a hero and always saving lives. That's what she wanted to do," the victim's sister-in-law Shanel Youmans said.

The Lawndale married mother of a 16-year-old son and 16-month-old daughter lost her life battling a 3:00 a.m. basement fire on Middleton Street in West Oak Lane.

Officials say she was trying to rescue of an elderly woman, who was in another part of the home.

"Her containing the fire in the basement allows that civilian to get out. That's how her actions saved that life," Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer said.

That resident was rescued from the home and is staying with neighbors.

The fire was first reported at 2:49 a.m. Tuesday in the 1600 block of Middleton Street. First arriving firefighters said there was no fire visible, but soon realized the fire was in the basement.

Lewis was among the first group on the scene. That group took a hose into the basement to fight the blaze, but blinding smoke tends to billow up a stairway in what is called a chimney effect.

"When a fire is in a basement there is a chimney effect. So when the fire is in the basement and you're running down into the basement to put the fire out, the heat and smoke is coming up those steps. So you're running down a chimney," Sawyer said.

As reinforcements arrived it was decided to use a second group through a back door. The first group was withdrawing, but soon realized Lewis was missing.

"In the process of those members withdrawing from the basement one of our members became trapped," Sawyer said.

He said Lewis was rushed to Einstein Medical Center with no vital signs and was pronounced dead a short time later.

Her equipment has been gathered and officials are trying to determine if everything was working, including her alarm. That alarm, called a Personal Alert Safety System - or PASS - is supposed to go off when a firefighter doesn't move for a certain amount of time.

"We're going to obviously assume that the equipment is functioning properly, but it's impossible to say what happened exactly at that moment until there's a full investigation," Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said.

The cause of the blaze is still under investigation.

Lewis was one of 150 women serving in the Philadelphia Fire Department.

"She knocked down some doors, some barriers. She went through a lot to do that. She wanted to be better than the best guy on the job," Youmans said.

At Engine 64 Tuesday night, there were hugs and condolences for those who served with the 11 year veteran whose locker is now a beautiful memorial.

"She was known for going the extra mile, wanting to make sure smoke detectors were in the less fortunate houses, to make sure they had a chance should anything happen," Lt. Benny Hutchins said.

That dedication that didn't go unnoticed by the Lawncrest neighborhood.

I live across the street and it's just sad. She has little ones. She gave her life for her job," Debbie Brown said.

"I know that every firefighter everyday put their lives on the line. This is just a matter of showing respect," Ron Bogosh said.

At a news conference early Tuesday, Sawyer described her as a Philadelphia native and a dedicated, hard-working public servant who never shied away working in the busiest engine companies.

"She had a strong work ethic," Sawyer said. "She prided herself on working at busy fire companies."

Sawyer said he set a goal when he became commissioner in June that the department would never lose a member on his watch.

"I've already failed in one of my goals," a somber Sawyer said.

"We suffered a tragic loss here this morning," said Nutter. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of this firefighter who's made the ultimate sacrifice fighting a fire, (and) to all of our Philadelphia firefighters. Their family, our family, has suffered a loss."

More than 40 Philadelphia firefighters have been killed in the line of duty since 1943, according to the International Association of Fire Fighters. The last was Captain Michael Goodwin on April 6, 2013.

The 53-year-old Goodwin died in a roof collapse while battling a fire in a three-story building in the city's Queen Village section.

The Associated Press contributed to this report