Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers issued a statement yesterday expressing the department's grief.
"The entire Philadelphia Fire Department was saddened when we learned about the death of Firefighter Tracy Champion," the statement read. "Tracy . . . loved his job, and his Fire Department family. All will tell you that he was a fine firefighter, attentive to getting the job done. Tracy was always concerned for his family and the community where he lived and served. He will be sorely missed.
"I will personally miss his warm smile, strong greeting, and insightful view of the fire service," Ayers' statement said.
His work was "a perfect fit," said his wife, Charisse Crowder Champion. "He was a caring, giving person."
He had been trained to respond to medical emergencies, she said, including women in labor, and he loved delivering babies. At home, she said, he was there when anyone needed help and regularly cut the grass and pruned the bushes for elderly neighbors.
An investigation by the Fire Marshal's Office determined that the fire, which was brought under control in 29 minutes, was caused by candles.
A lifelong resident of West Philadelphia, Mr. Champion attended Central High School, where he ran track, and graduated from Overbrook High School in 1974.
For the next four years he served in the Marine Corps in North Carolina and then was an office worker for local businesses in Philadelphia before joining the Fire Department in 1985.
Since 1988, he had served with Engine 54 in Overbrook. Before that, he was assigned to Engine 60 in South Philadelphia and to Engine 65 in Overbrook.
He played softball on Fire Department teams and had recently won trophies for his participation in the department's bowling leagues. He also enjoyed golfing, deep-sea fishing, and riding his motorcycle.
He was a sports fanatic, his wife said, and would sometimes set up two televisions in the same room to watch different games.
He was a great father, she said. He never missed his oldest son's high school track events - even if it meant taking a vacation day to be there. He would also take days off, she said, to accompany his youngest son on school field trips.
In addition to wife of 19 years, Mr. Champion is survived by sons Tracy and Timothy; his mother, Leola Champion; two brothers; and a sister.
The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Sharon Baptist Church, 3955 Conshohocken Ave. Friends may call beginning at 9 a.m. Burial will be in Fernwood Cemetery, Lansdowne.
Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or firstname.lastname@example.org.