The 1997 fire at the Delaware Trust building was a wake-up call.
Firefighters were confused about who was in charge and struggled to coordinate during the high-rise blaze that injured 15 of them at what is now the Residences at Rodney Square, federal investigators said in a report two years later.
The feds recommended additional training. They said Wilmington should utilize nearby training facilities, conduct exercises with county companies and "evaluate their in-service training program to ensure that it is adequately preparing fire fighters to respond to various incidents," the report said.
"There were people going every which way," then-fire union president Mike McNulty told The News Journal in 1999. "We were lucky we didn't lose anyone."
Nearly two decades later, the department wasn't so lucky. A blaze on Sept. 24, 2016, in Canby Park took the lives of three Wilmington firefighters: Christopher Leach, Jerry Fickes and Ardythe Hope.
A lack of training for firefighters and officers was cited among the factors that turned the fire fatal, federal investigators said in a November report.