World · August 6, 2022

The Pennsylvania fire kills 10 relatives of the United States firefighter, including three children

The fire quickly hit a home in northeastern Pennsylvania on Friday morning, killing seven adults and three children and horrifying a volunteer firefighter who arrived to fight the blaze only to find that the victims were his own family. authorities said.

The dead children were 5, 6, and 7 years old, Pennsylvania state police said in a press 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 Nescdeck, 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 other young victims were visiting his aunt and uncle’s home for swimming and other summer entertainment.

He said 13 dogs were also in the two-story house, but didn’t say if he knew if anyone had survived.

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

Baker grabbed a hose and a pack of air and began pouring water on the fire, desperate to get in and call his son. His boss realized who the house was and the other firefighters escorted Baker to the fire station.

A preliminary investigation suggests the fire broke out on the porch around 2:30 a.m., Luzerne County District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce said Friday night.

“The information I have is that the fire started and progressed very quickly, making it very difficult to get out,” he said.

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

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

Baker said the address initially provided for the call was a neighboring house. He realized it was the residence of his family as the fire truck approached. He said that his unit was the first on the scene and that the house was already engulfed in flames.

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

His son, 19-year-old Dale Baker, had followed both of his parents into the fire department, joining when he was 16.

“He said it all his life, he would be lonely like his father,” said Harold Baker.

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

The family was “always willing to help lend a 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 across the street, said he was awake early Friday and looked out after hearing a loud explosion. He saw that the porch “was really going” and walked out, using another neighbor’s hose to prevent the fire from spreading to a garage.

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

A man was on his cell phone, “and I’m trying to ask him if they’re all out,” he said. “The other guy was on the street and running around in circles.”

Swank said he was unable to obtain information from them. A fence prevented him from reaching the back of the property.

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

Swank said the family moved in a few months ago under what he considered to be a rent-to-own lease and spent a lot of time on the messy porch.

“It was so fast and it smelled so much smoke, just no one was going to make it,” Swank said. He saw cadaver dogs being used to search the scene until the bodies were found.