Plaque memorializes fallen woman firefighter

MARIA S. YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO

Mayor Michael Nutter, Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer and leaders of the city’s firefighters union unveiled a new memorial plaque paying tribute to fallen Fire Lt. Joyce Craig on Friday at the Lawncrest station where she primarily served.

Craig became the city’s first woman firefighter to die in the line of duty last December when she became trapped inside a burning home in West Oak Lane. Craig, 36, of Castor Gardens, was an 11-year veteran of the fire department and mother of two children, including a 16-year-old son and infant daughter.

“If we do our duty half as well as Lt. Joyce Craig, we will have lived a good life,” Nutter said during the dedication ceremony, which was organized by attorney Jimmy Binns’ Hero Plaque Program.

Craig’s plaque was the 276th installed by the program around the city since 2001 to memorialize fallen police and firefighters.

Craig was a firefighter assigned to Lawncrest’s Engine 64, at Rising Sun Avenue and Lardner Street, when she took an overtime shift at Engine 73, at N. 76th and Ogontz avenues, on Dec. 9. At 2:49 a.m., her company and others were dispatched to a dwelling fire at 1655 Middleton St. Craig helped rescue an elderly woman from the first floor before she went toward the basement to reach the flames at their source.

According to published reports of the blaze, a flare-up forced other firefighters to evacuate the house momentarily, but Craig never made it out. She became trapped in intense heat and smoke and lost consciousness. Rescuers later pulled her from the house and took her to Albert Einstein Medical Center, but Craig succumbed to her injuries. The fire department promoted Craig to lieutenant posthumously.

Dozens of Craig’s relatives and colleagues gathered outside Engine 64 on Friday as Sawyer in his public comments noted that women weren’t even allowed to be firefighters when he joined the department in 1985. Now, a woman firefighter and her family have made the ultimate sacrifice. ••

MARIA S. YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO

Solemn remembrance: The city unveiled a plaque Friday to honor Fire Lt. Joyce Craig, who died in the line of duty in December. MARIA S. YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO