Firefighter’s family killed in house fire

A volunteer firefighter in the US arrived to deal with a house fire that killed seven adults and three children, only to find the victims were their own family.

Pennsylvania State Police said the children who died were ages five, six and seven, while the seven adults ranged from their late teens to a 79-year-old man.

Harold Baker, a volunteer firefighter in the city of Nescope, said his son, daughter, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, three grandchildren and two other relatives were among the 10 victims.

Mr Baker said his two children and other young victims were going to their aunt and uncle’s house for swimming and other summer fun.


Firefighters set up lights in front of a fatal home fire at 733 First Street in Nescope, Pennsylvania (Jimmy May/Bloomsburg Press Enterprise via AP)

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

“All I wanted to do was go out there and meet these people, my family. That’s all I was thinking about them,” Mr. Baker said in a phone interview with The Associated Press (AP).

Mr Baker grabbed a hose and air pack, and began pouring water over the fire, desperate to go inside and calling for his son.

His chief realized whose house it was, and fellow firefighters escorted Mr. Baker back to the fire station.

Luzerne County District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce said preliminary investigations suggest the fire started on the front porch around 2.30 a.m. local time.

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

Mr Sanguedolce said three people managed to escape the fire.

Four state police fire marshals are involved in the investigation, although it would not be classified as a criminal investigation unless they determine that the fire was intentionally started, he said.


Crews work to demolish a home that was destroyed by a deadly fire (Seaan McKeig/Citizens’ Voice via AP)

Nescopec is a small town on the Susquehanna River, about 20 miles southwest of Wilkes-Barre.

The house was largely owner-occupied, on a residential street of single family homes.

Mr Baker said the address initially given for the call was a neighborhood home.

As the fire brigade approached, he realized that it was the residence of his family members.

Mr Baker said his unit was on scene earlier, and the house was already engulfed in flames.

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

His son, 19-year-old Dale Baker, entered the fire service after both his parents had died when he was 16.

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


Firefighters next to home in Nescopeck (Jimmy May/Bloomsburg Press Enterprise via AP)

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

Ms Knorr said the family is “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 away across the street, said he awoke early Friday and looked outside after hearing a loud explosion.

He saw that 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 people outside and they were in different states of mania,” Mr Swank told the AP over the phone.

A man was on a mobile phone “and I’m trying to ask him if everyone is out”, he said.

“The other guy was out in the street and he was just going around in circles.”


Young people at the scene of the deadly fire (Matt Rourke/AP)

Mr Swank said he had not been able to obtain information from them.

A fence kept him from going to the back of the property.

Mr Baker said there were 14 people living in the house. One was distributing a newspaper and three others fled.

Mr Swank said the family had moved in under a rental agreement a few months ago, and spent a lot of time on the cluttered front porch.

“It was so loud and so much smoke, you just knew no one was going to put it out there,” Mr Swank said.

They observed that till the dead body was found, dogs were being used to search the spot.