Delaware Public Media

Bill seeks to extend state death benefits to families of fallen Wilmington firefighters

Mar 20, 2017

A bill being introduced this week would provide funeral benefits to the family members of three fallen Wilmington firefighters.

Current Delaware state law offers a $7,000 death benefit – which covers the cost of funeral expenses and more – to the families of volunteer firefighters and police across the First State.


But that law doesn’t apply to Wilmington firefighters, the state’s only full-time fire department.


In the wake of the September Canby Park blaze that left three city firefighters dead – lawmakers like State Representative Helene Keeley are trying to change that.


“The government doesn’t necessarily always get it right but when we see an inequity is what we try to do is we try to right the ship," Keeley said.


Keeley is the prime House sponsor for a bill that would provide retroactive payment to the family members of Christopher Leach, Jerry Fickes and Ardy Hope for funeral expenses – and is being named in their honor.


But Wilmington Firefighters Association President Kevin Turner says the bill also applies to those currently serving.


“But this bill not only honors our fallen, but it will provide county, municipal police and firefighters with the same burial benefit that’s provided to other state employees," Turner said.


There’s bipartisan support for the bill, and its Senate sponsor - Harris McDowell says he is looking to move it quickly through the General Assembly.


“It really isn’t a lot of money when you add up the cost but that certainly is of no consideration whether it was or wasn’t," McDowell said.