A blaze described as ‘violent’ and ‘powerful’ swept through a home in northeastern Pennsylvania early Friday morning, killing 10 people, including several relatives of a firefighter who responded to the blaze, according to authorities and the firefighter.
Among those killed in the Nescopeck Fire, about 45 miles southwest of Scranton, were three children, ages 5, 6 and 7, Pennsylvania State Police said. The other victims were between the ages of 19 and 79, officials said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. State police said three people were able to escape to safety.
Nescopeck Volunteer Fire Company firefighter Harold Baker was sleeping early on Friday when he was awakened by the beep of his pager, which reported a house fire, with perhaps 10 people trapped inside.
Mr Baker rushed to the station and was then among the first firefighters on the scene. As he rounded the corner, his heart sank, he said in a phone interview on Friday evening. The address he had been given was wrong. His son Dale, 19, and daughter Star, 22, were inside the burning home, he said. In fact, Mr Baker said, he knew everyone in the two-story house, which belonged to his brother-in-law, who was able to escape.
“I tried to get in as fast as I could,” he said. “I tried three times, then they realized who the house belonged to and why I was trying to get in, and they shot me,” he said of his colleagues. “They said, ‘No, you have to get the hell out of here. “”
When they found Dale, a volunteer firefighter who had followed in his father’s footsteps, Mr Baker’s colleagues draped a flag over his body. “They released him as a deceased firefighter,” he said.
Star Baker, who was due to marry next year, also did not make it out alive, Mr Baker said, adding that he was linked to eight of the 10 people who died in the fire.
A neighbour, Michael Swank, said he woke up around 2.30am and heard banging noises, which he first thought were gunshots. He looked outside and saw the porch of a house across the street engulfed in flames. He said the noises he heard sounded like paint cans or propane canisters igniting and exploding.
“I knew the firefighters wouldn’t arrive in time” to rescue the occupants of the house, Mr Swank said. He did not hear or see any activity that indicated anyone was trying to escape the fire, he said.
“Boy, it was just an awful fire” that quickly spread from the porch to the upper floors, he said, adding, “It was hell. God bless those kids that were there. They had no prayer.
In addition to Dale Baker and Star Baker, state police have identified the deceased adults as David Daubert Sr., 79; Brian Daubert, 42; Shannon Daubert, 45; Laure Daubert, 47; and Marian Slusser, 54.
Mr Swank said tenants of the house rarely lived there for more than a year or two.
Kirsten Noyes contributed research.