Pennsylvania blaze kills 10 relatives of firefighter

Nescopeck, Pa. (AP) – A house fire raged in northeastern Pennsylvania early Friday morning, killing seven adults and three children and scaring a volunteer firefighter who fought to contain the blaze. arrived to find that the victims were his own family, officials said. .

The dead children were ages 5, 6 and 7, while the seven adults ranged in age from their teens to a 79-year-old man, Pennsylvania State Police said in a news release. An autopsy was planned for later this week.

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

He said there were also 13 dogs in the two-story home, but did not say whether he knew if any had survived.

“All I wanted to do was go there and go to those people, my family. That’s what I was thinking about going to them,” Baker said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

Baker grabbed a hose and air pack, and began pouring water on the fire, calling out to his son, desperate to get in. His chief realized whose house it was, and fellow firefighters took Baker back to the firehouse.

Crews work to demolish a house destroyed by a deadly fire in Nescopeck, Pennsylvania, on Friday.

Sean McCaig/The Citizen’s Voice via Associated Press

Luzerne County District Attorney Sam Sangodoulis said Friday evening that a preliminary investigation indicates the fire started on the front porch around 2:30 a.m.

“The information I have is that the fire started very quickly and moved forward which made it very difficult to get out,” he said.

Three people managed to escape the fire, Sangodoles said. He said four state police fire marshals are involved in the investigation, though it will not be classified as a criminal investigation unless they determine the fire was intentionally set.

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

Baker said the address initially given for the call was a neighbor’s home. As the fire truck approaches, he realizes that it is the residence of his family members. He said his unit was the first on the scene, and the house was already engulfed in flames.

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

His son, Dale Baker, 19, joined the fire service with both his parents when he was 16.

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

Young People Visit The Site Of A Deadly Fire In Northeastern Pennsylvania On Friday.  A Criminal Investigation Is Ongoing, Police Said.
Young people visit the site of a deadly fire in northeastern Pennsylvania on Friday. A criminal investigation is ongoing, police said.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke via Associated Press

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

Kanwar said the family was “always ready to help anyone in need.” Dale’s mother was not among the dead listed by Harold Baker.

Mike Swank, who lives two doors across the street, said he woke up early Friday to hear a loud explosion and looked outside. He noticed the porch was “really going” and went outside, using another neighbor’s hose to keep the fire from spreading to the garage.

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

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

Swank said he was not able to get information from them. A fence prevented him from going behind the property.

Baker said there were 14 people living in the home. One was outside delivering a newspaper, and three others escaped.

Swank said the family moved into what he thought was a rent-to-own agreement a few months ago, and spent a lot of time on the cluttered front porch.

“It was so loud and so smokey, you just knew no one was going to pull it out,” Swank said. He saw stray dogs being used to search the crime scene until the bodies were found.

Scolforo and Brooke Schultz reported from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Schultz is a core member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on classified issues.

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