Seven adults and three children were confirmed dead after a house fire early Friday, Pennsylvania State Police said in a news release. In a shocking and tragic twist, one of the firefighters responding to the blaze discovered the house belonged to his loved ones, many of whom are now among the dead.
A criminal investigation is underway, authorities said. The children who died in the fire were aged five, six and seven.
Nescopeck Volunteer Fire Co firefighter Harold Baker told the Wilkes-Barre Citizens’ Voice newspaper he realized on arriving at the scene that the victims were his relatives.
Baker said the 10 victims the family expected to find included his son, daughter, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, three grandchildren and two other relatives.
The Nescopeck fire was reported around 2:30 a.m. One person was found dead inside the single-family home shortly after help arrived, while two other victims were found later that morning.
The victims ranged in age from six to 70, authorities said. Some people were able to safely flee the burning house, authorities said, but about seven people were still missing as of Friday afternoon.
Baker said the address originally given for the call was a nearby house, but he realized it was his family’s residence as the fire truck approached.
“When we turned the corner here on Dewey [Street] I knew straight away which house it was just by looking down the street,” Baker told Citizens’ Voice. “I was on the first engine, and when we pulled up the whole place was fully involved. We tried to get in touch with them.
Neighbors reported hearing a loud bang or explosion before seeing the front porch of the house quickly consumed by flames. Some also reported hearing a young man shouting outside the house: “They are all dead.
Baker, who was relieved of his duties as a firefighter because of his relationship with the victims, said 14 people lived in the house. One had gone out to deliver newspapers and three others escaped, he said.
“This is a complex criminal investigation with multiple deaths,” said Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Derek Felsman. Soldiers were interrogating survivors, he said.