NESCOPECK, Pa. –

The fire quickly swept through a northeastern Pennsylvania home early Friday, killing seven adults and three children and horrifying a volunteer firefighter who arrived to battle the flames and discovered the victims were his own family, authorities said.

The children who died were ages 5, 6 and 7, the Pennsylvania State Police said in a news release, while the seven adults ranged from late teens to a 79-year-old man. Autopsies were scheduled for this weekend.

Harold Baker, a volunteer firefighter in the town of Nescopeck, said the 10 victims included his son, daughter, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, three grandchildren and two other relatives. He said his two children and the other young victims were visiting their aunt and uncle’s house to swim and have fun during the summer.

He said there were also 13 dogs in the two-story home, but would not say if he knew of any that survived.

“All I wanted to do was go in and reach out to these people, my family. That’s all I was thinking about, reaching out to them,” Baker said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Baker grabbed a hose and air pack and began pouring water on the fire, desperate to get inside and call his son. His boss realized who the house was, and fellow firefighters escorted Baker back to the firehouse.

A preliminary investigation suggests the fire started on the front porch around 2:30 am, Luzerne County District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce said Friday night.

“The information I have is that the fire started and moved very fast, so it is very difficult to get out,” he said.

Three people were able to escape the fire, Sanguedolce said. Four state police fire chiefs are involved in the investigation, though it won’t be classified as a criminal investigation unless they determine the fire was intentionally set, he said.

Nescopeck is a small town on the Susquehanna River about 20 miles southwest of Wilkes-Barre. The house was on a residential street of largely owner-occupied single-family homes.

Baker said the address initially given for the call was a neighboring house. She realized that it was the residence of her relatives when she approached the fire truck. He said his unit was the first to arrive and the house was already engulfed in flames.

“There was nothing we could have done to get in there. We tried, but we couldn’t get in,” said Baker, 57, who has been a firefighter for 40 years.

Their son, Dale Baker, 19, had followed his parents into the fire service, joining when he was 16.

“He said it all his life, he was going to be like his father,” said Harold Baker.

Heidi Knorr, secretary of the Nescopeck Volunteer Fire Company, called Dale Baker “such a fun-loving soul. He just loved life.”

The family “was always willing to help lend a helping hand to anyone in need,” Knorr said. Dale’s mother was not among the dead listed by Harold Baker.

Mike Swank, who lives two doors away across the street, said he was awake early Friday and looked outside after hearing a loud bang. He saw that the porch was “really working” and got out, using another neighbor’s hose to prevent the flames from spreading to a garage.

“I saw two guys outside and they were in various states of hysteria,” Swank told the AP by phone.

One man was on a cell phone, “and I’m trying to ask if everyone’s out,” he said. “The other guy was in the street and he was running around in circles.”

Swank said he was unable to get any information from them. A fence prevented him from reaching the rear of the property.

Baker said 14 people lived in the house. One was delivering newspapers and three others ran away.

Swank said the family had moved in a few months ago under what he understood to be a rent-to-own agreement, spending a lot of time on the crowded front porch.

“It was so fast and there was so much smoke that you knew no one was going to get out,” Swank said. He saw cadaver dogs being used to search the scene until the bodies were located.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.